Three children crouch down on the grass and interact with a small black pig wearing a pink outfit.

Camp Be a Kid wraps up another happy summer

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Camp Be a Kid is a program of United Counseling Service (UCS)’s Children, Youth and Family Services (CYFS) division that gives children with trauma backgrounds and mental health conditions the opportunity to experience a classic kids’ summer camp. Children spent five weeks at Lake Shaftsbury through July and August and participated in fun activities like meeting a group of traveling therapy pigs, fishing, swimming, participating in yogaclasses, and watching a magic show. Kids also met K9 Unit Gracie and her partner, Officer Murawski, of the Bennington Police Department. Staff from the Youth and Family Therapy team wove therapy and group discussions into daily activities to create awelcoming and safe therapeutic environment where children can build important social-emotional skills and heal from trauma. 

“This camp allows children to have both a normal, fun campexperience, as well as continue their therapeutic programming through the summer,” says Ryan Lane, Director of CYFS.  

Children also learn self-care, how to decode their emotions, and behavior management techniques, as part of their camp experience. The combination of classic summer camp activities and therapeutic elements gives opportunities to build positive relationships with adults and peers. Camp Be a Kid also helps kids address their own experiences and trauma in a safe setting, with trained therapeutic staff members available to support them. Behavior issues can occur due to past trauma, but staff are equipped to support kids so that they have a successful and fun camp experience.  

This year’s Camp Be a Kid impacted not only kids involved in the program, but staff too. As one staff said, “It was hard not to cry as I drove away on the last day of camp.”

Another said, “”The relationships I’ve built with both staff and kids have positively impacted me in a huge way.” 

Camp Be a Kid is one of many home and community-based services provided by UCS for children, teens, and families in Bennington County. UCS operates a Psychiatric Urgent Care for Kids, Children’s Integrated Services for children under age six years old, Family Emergency Services, Crisis and Emergency Services for youth-related mental health crises, and Intensive Health and Community Based Services for children and families. UCS also offers family outreach services, case management, community supports, respite, after-school programming, and programs tailored to the needs of young adults ages 14-21. These include Youth in Transition, Jump on Board for Success, Prevention and Stabilization for Youth and Families, and Teens4Change. 

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