Letter to the Editor

Breaking cycle of addictions

Monday, October 1, 2012

Recently, 20 children (4 children from each of the following counties: Buena Vista, Cherokee, Ida, Plymouth and Woodbury Counties) were sponsored to attend Camp Hope. This opportunity for these children to attend Camp Hope was made possible by the following organizations: Buena Vista DHS and BV DEC Alliance, Cherokee County Legacy Foundation and Cherokee County Planning Council, Ida County Betterment Foundation and Ida County Planning Council, Plymouth DEC Alliance and Plymouth Planning Council, and the Woodbury DECAT/Family Treatment Court.

The purpose of the camp is to help these children understand the disease of addiction their parents/guardians are enduring, to meet other children in a similar situation--to show that they are not alone, and to help these children find their voice to identify their feelings, emotions, and experience that they endure.

The Ida County Betterment Foundation is a charitable foundation created by and for the people of Ida County to receive gifts from individuals, families, corporations, private foundations, and governmental agencies. These gifts are carefully invested and the income from endowments is used to make grants to public charities that best meet the needs of the county. The mission of the Ida County Betterment Foundation is to promote philanthropy, serve as a vehicle to carry out its charitable objective to donors, build endowments, identify needs and make grants for the benefit of the citizens and communities of Ida County.

The Cherokee County Legacy Foundation is a nonprofit organization, established to meet the current and future needs of our local communities. Since its establishment in 2005, the Cherokee County Legacy Foundation has awarded over $500,000 in grants to over 100 organizations throughout Cherokee County. The awards came by way of the County Endowment Fund, which was established in HF 2302 in the 2004 Legislative Session. The purpose of this legislation is to provide financial support to encourage the creation and development of community foundations and civic philanthropy throughout Iowa.

The Cherokee, Ida, Plymouth, & Woodbury Counties Decategorization seek to provide community programs reach out to families in need to assistance and support. Decategorization was initially developed in response to: the growing number of children in foster care, the need to increase emphasis on early intervention and prevention services, community values which support the reality that most families, even dysfunctional ones, do a better job of raising children than the government, and the recognition that local jurisdictions are much more in touch with the needs of their children and families and have the capability to respond quicker and more appropriately than state bureaucracy (IowaCommunityPartners.org).

The Drug Endangered Children Alliance is a new addition to Buena

Vista & Plymouth Counties, with the ultimate goal of providing a coordinated response to the impact of parental/caregiver substance abuse on Iowa children. The mission of the Drug Endangered Children Alliance is to empower communities to break the cycle of drug abuse, by providing the tools, technical assistance and training that allows for a collaborative response that ensures the safety of children.

The Buena Vista and Woodbury Family Treatment Courts are a nonprofit organization. As an extension of Juvenile Court, Family Treatment Court implements a collaborative team approach to working with substance abusing parents towards family reunification.

Camp Hope is more than a "learning environment", it also gives children the chance to be children and experience a "camp environment". Each child has the opportunity to spend the afternoon climbing the rock wall, racing down the water slides, playing miniature golf, speeding down the zip line, as well as a variety of other activities.

Camp Hope was seen as a need in our community, as there are few programs to address the issues that personally address the complexities of a drug affected child. We have children in our neighborhoods that may not have a positive role model to look up to. For children in a drug affected environment, "the single most important component for their healthy development is the presence of an enduring healthy adult care-giving relationship" (Neurons and Neighborhoods, Shonkoff and Phillips, 2000). By encouraging children to seek a positive role model, we hope to change a negative trajectory, if that child were to continue a multi-generational cycle of substance abuse. Children of addicted parents are the highest risk group of children to become alcohol and drug abusers themselves. To begin the conversation at an early age will help children see that they can take a different path.

Each child needs to know that they have an adult they can trust to promote a positive trajectory. We need to turn to our community to build the resiliency of our children, which can come in the form of the following avenues: children's advocacy center, counselor, social worker, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA), PTA/PTSA Group, DARE Group, elderly, and faith-based community. We can come together as a community to serve as role models for our future community members.

Following the conclusion of Camp Hope, we hope to provide a meeting each month for the entire family, including the children who attended Camp Hope, to allow the family to continue working towards the understanding that addiction is a family disease. We will continue to address the needs of the children, while incorporating fun activities.

Camp Hope looks forward to sharing personal testimonials from the Buena Vista, Cherokee, Ida, Plymouth, & Woodbury County children who attended Camp Hope, which was made possible by the awards from the agencies listed above. Thank you for your support of Camp Hope!

If you are interested in more information, please contact Ashley Christensen (712) 560-2630.