Thanks to a research grant from Dr. Allan and Nan Lipton of Hershey, PA, Foundation for Jewish Camp (FJC) plans to map current services available to children with special needs and physical disabilities at nonprofit Jewish overnight camps across North America.
This will be the first ever research of its kind in the Jewish community and will drive the ultimate goal of making the experience of Jewish camp available to all children. Working with Laszlo Strategies, a firm specializing in helping nonprofit groups champion the causes of medical science and people with physical and developmental disabilities, this research will provide a thorough understanding of the options Jewish camps offer to children with special needs and provide a baseline for expanding services. The research will be followed by a convening of the field – both Jewish Camp professionals and special needs experts – to allow FJC to locate the gaps, establish where and how the needs can be filled, and develop a set of guidelines for camps to use as a resource.
Many Jewish camps are leaders in accommodating special needs children with inclusive or parallel programs and several camps are able to assess and enroll children with special needs on a case-by-case basis. Even so, although Jewish overnight camps serve nearly 75,000 children each camping season, they are able to accommodate fewer than 1,000 special needs campers every summer; the need is far greater with growing wait lists for many Jewish camps that serve children with disabilities.
This initial research will be the catalyst to exploring the range and types of activities camps could be utilizing to integrate campers with special needs. The project will catalog the language and philosophies used by the field concerning special needs, examine legal issues, determine what steps need to be taken to improve the range of services and expertise of camp staff, and more.