Royal Family KIDS – Making a Difference for Children in Foster Care
What if you could be the deciding factor of whether or not a seven-year-old boy will spend the rest of his life in prison? What if it was your choice whether or not a ten-year-old girl became an HIV-positive prostitute by the age of 15, or went to college on a full-ride scholarship instead?
It’s easy to believe that everyone would help children in need during the most vulnerable moments of their lives. What is difficult is finding the opportunity to help these children in a meaningful way.
This is why Royal Family KIDS was created. For the past 25 years, this charity has recruited, trained and sustained adult mentors to stand up for kids in foster care, ages 6-12, by providing healthy adult relationships and memories that last a lifetime. By partnering with local churches (27 different denominations and traditions), Royal Family KIDS helps change the trajectory of a child through the power of positive relationships.
“CONNECTING” AT SUMMER CAMP
Royal Family KIDS started as a single summer camp in Southern California in 1985, and today the organization has 200 locations around the country. The kids are introduced to Royal Family KIDS through a weeklong summer camp, which provides fun activities custom-tailored to build self-esteem and create lifelong memories. These are the best moments in a child’s life – swimming, fishing, horseback riding, board games, crafts, songs, hiking and more. Each child is part of a camp-wide “birthday party” complete with cake, ice cream, presents and games (most foster kids do not celebrate their birthdays).
The camp staff is specially trained to work with foster kids, and they have extensive safeguards in place to help promote the feeling of safety among the campers. The kids at Royal Family intuitively know their camp is a special place – all the children come from foster care, none of the volunteers are paid to be there, and each counselor has only two campers under their watch. The entire program is designed to build trust and create a healthy bond between campers and counselors.
“BELONGING” TO CLUB
After the summer camp is over, the camp counselors and staff are eligible to start a Royal Family KIDS Club, which meets monthly at one of the sponsoring churches. The children are reunited with each other and the camp’s counselors and staff, and together they take part in fun activities, songs and games. The Club is for all children who have attended Royal Family KIDS before and provides a way for them to experience a true place of belonging. This powerful emotional connection reinforces the trust that is first built at camp.
“DEVELOPING” THROUGH THE MENTOR PROGRAM
The charity’s ultimate goal is to pair each child with a specially trained and screened mentor. Studies have shown that mentors can be an incredibly positive force in the life of a foster child. When children are suffering from a breakdown in healthy adult relationships (in other words, from abusive or absent parents), the only way to heal that wound is through a positive adult relationship. No drug prescription or therapeutic program can heal a relationship-sized hole.
In 2013, the charity served over 7,000 children ages 6-12. Over 10,000 adults stood as a member of the Royal Family to become the difference maker in a child’s life.
THE STATISTICS ARE OVERWHELMING
Currently, there are over 400,000 children in the United States that are in the U.S. foster care system. These kids are suffering because of a continuing cycle of drug and alcohol abuse, domestic violence, physical and sexual abuse, abandonment and neglect. The problem continues generation after generation because the children of abusers grow up to become abusers themselves. Unless someone steps up to become a positive force in their lives, many of these kids are destined for prison, prostitution, drug / alcohol addiction and early death.
Consider these sobering statistics:
· * 50% of all children in foster care end up incarcerated within two years of aging out.
· * 50% of girls are pregnant within two years.
· * 74% of California’s prison inmates were once in foster care.
· * 80% of Illinois prisoners on death row were once foster kids.
HOW TO BECOME A PART OF THE “ROYAL FAMILY”
There are several ways to help the charity. Like many organizations, Royal Family KIDS needs funding to support and expand their programs. They especially need people willing to sign up as monthly sponsors (no amount is too small!). They also need companies and celebrities to sponsor their events. They are looking for individuals and/or companies to help them launch new Camps and Clubs (details are listed on www.royalfamilykids.org).
Royal Family KIDS receives a lot of questions about how people can volunteer – and each local chapter has a Director who oversees the application process. People interested in learning more can find applications and information on the charity’s website.
If you’re located in Southern California, you can attend one of the charity’s events to learn more and donate to the cause. Whether it’s the annual gala at the end of February, the paddle boarding party in May or the golf tournament in September, there are plenty of ways to meet other volunteers while having a great time.
One of the most powerful examples of the charity’s impact is told by Samantha Orr, who at age 8 was considered the worst case of child abuse in Greene County (Missouri). Samantha suffered horrific levels of abuse. No one even knew she existed, because her drug-addicted mother and abusive stepfathers never reported her existence. She had never attended school and was severely malnourished.
Her caseworker thought it would be a good idea for her to attend Royal Family KIDS Camp to build some positive memories and try to establish healthy adult relationships. When she first arrived at camp, she didn’t know how to smile because she never had reason to smile before.
By the end of one week of camp, Samantha was a different child. For the first time in her life, she had experienced true joy from activities usually considered “normal” for other kids: fishing, boating, swimming, crafts, singing with other kids, dress-up and roasting s’mores by the campfire. These were the very ‘firsts’ in her life!
Today, Samantha is on a full-ride scholarship and serves as one of the youth ambassadors for Royal Family KIDS. “Royal Family quite literally saved my life,” she says. “Without being introduced to the amazing people at camp, I would have been a runaway and would no doubt be dead or in jail. This program literally saves lives – and I know, because it saved mine.”
For more information about Royal Family KIDS and how you can get involved, visit www.royalfamilykids.org.