We title this study Beyond Culture Camp because we recognize that parents adopting across race and culture, and the professionals who guide them, have developed strategies such as camps and festivals to introduce or strengthen children’s connection to their cultures and countries of origin. Yet, as this study found, such activities – while important – are insufficient in helping children adopted across racial and national boundaries develop a healthy, positive sense of self.And at the group adoptee blog Transracialeyes, they question the value of sending kids to culture camp (I think it likely that mine is the "blog of an adoptive mother who sent the children in her care to China Heritage Camp (run by Dillon International)" referenced in the post). I absolutely agree with their implication, in asking for reactions to "culture by camp," that culture cannot be imparted by camp.
So what is the point of culture camp/heritage camp?
When I asked my kids what they value about China heritage camp, their answers have little to do with culture. They like being with kids like them -- brown, Chinese-born, adopted by white parents. They love the teen counselors, who are also like them -- brown, Chinese-born, adopted by white parents. Yes, they enjoy cooking and eating Chinese food, learning Chinese legends, and the like. But they really love being surrounded by kids like themselves. They love not having to explain their strange family. For Maya, who hates being "different," this is a chance for her to be the "same as," instead.
I know they're not learning much about China or their Chinese heritage at this camp (they usually already know the language/songs/festivals/stories being taught). But we go BEYOND culture camp, as the Donaldson report suggests is necessary, with weekly Chinese School during the school year, for example. They've developed relationships with Chinese-American kids and families there; they have something in common with those kids, too. They are all minority kids, they are all immigrants or children of immigrants. That's really valuable. But they are different from those kids, too. At China heritage camp, they are the same. And both are necessary.
Adoptive parents, do you send your kids to culture camp? Why or why not?
Adoptees, did you attend culture camp as a child? Was it valuable? Why or why not?
Thanks in advance for commenting!