The Foundation for Jewish Camp (FJC) has unveiled key findings from a survey and in-depth interviews mapping current, potential, and desired services available to children with emotional, intellectual, and physical disabilities at nonprofit Jewish overnight camps across North America: Jewish Camp for Children with Disabilities and Special Needs. The research reports that the majority of those involved in camp – including staff, campers, and parents – care about this issue and want more options for this group. It also found that while the field is making progress in the types and amounts of services offered, there is still more to be done.
According to the survey, the field of Jewish camp is currently serving roughly 2,500 children with special needs and physical disabilities. While the numbers are encouraging and larger than earlier estimated, few camps are equipped to serve children with very involved disabilities or physical restrictions. Many more camps are serving children in this population than are advertising to the public through their websites and marketing materials. In fact, 36% of camps offer unique programs for children with special needs and/or physical disabilities and 55% of camps have a designated staff member (part-time or full-time) to oversee these campers.
The study showed that overwhelmingly (93%) of parents of campers with disabilities/special needs who attend Jewish camp are satisfied/extremely satisfied with their overall experience.
Camp staff and directors cite a lack of training and knowledge as the biggest barriers to serving more children with disabilities/special needs, not attitudes or facilities. FJC is currently creating a plan of action to advance the field of Jewish camp in this arena including convening experts in the field of camping and special needs, which will take place in the fall of 2013.
More information on the study can be found at jewishcamp.org/research.