GUILFORD COUNTY, N.C. — In a county that takes in more than 5,000 reports of child abuse and neglect every year, advocates are excited about an opportunity to help those kids long-term.
Guilford County Family Justice Center Director Catherine Johnson says they were awarded a $10,000 grant to help launch Camp HOPE America. The camp is specifically for children who’ve experienced abuse or domestic violence.
“One of the unique things about Camp HOPE is it’s a prevention strategy really focused on breaking the generational cycle of abuse and giving kids the opportunity to just be kids,” Johnson explained.
Camp Hope America started in California and spread to five states in 2015. Guilford County was awarded one of twelve grants from Verizon to continue Camp HOPE America’s expansion.
Johnson says the Guilford County Family Justice Center has served at least 4,000 people since it opened last June. Social Services gets 5,600 reports for child abuse or neglect each year on average, she added.
“This is truly a community issue. It’s not something that happens to ‘those people.’ It happens to all of us. By giving kids the opportunity to have that place of healing, to have a place where they can have fun, but also get what they need to realize, ‘Hey, I’m not alone in this. I’m not the only one.’ That can be transformational,” she pointed out.
According to information on the camp’s website, between two and 10 million children are exposed to domestic violence every year in the U.S.
“Trauma-exposed children so often end up in the state prisons of this country as they grow up,” said Alliance for Hope International President Casey Gwinn in a promotional video for the camp. “You can love these kids at 10 or 12 or 14… or you can lock them up at 17 or 18 and say you’re tough on crime.”
Johnson says the grant will be the seed money to start the camp, train employees, and visit an existing Camp HOPE to see how things run. They’ll likely use an existing camp location in the area and build Camp HOPE strategies into the weeklong curriculum. She hopes to start one here within the next one or two years.