Camp HOPE America – Pathways is part of the only evidence-based camping and year-round mentoring program in America to focus on youth exposed to domestic violence, sexual assault, and child abuse. Andy, first came to Camp HOPE when he was 13 years old. Andy had experienced domestic violence in his home as was looking for a week free from the trauma that surrounded his family. After taking part in several days of meaningful camp activities, the group headed to the river to sleep outdoors and take part in white-water river rafting. On the way to the river, Andy’s counselor was talking with him about the experience they were about to participate in. The counselor shared how fun it will be to sleep under the stars. “I was homeless for two year and I slept under the stars every night. It isn’t that great,” Andy honestly shared. Andy and the majority of his fellow campers had a high Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE) score. Studies show 30 percent of the homeless population have an ACE score of 6 or higher (2010 WA BRFSS – Preliminary; Based on < Full Year of Data). Without the intervention of Camp HOPE, odds are Andy would have gone down that route.
Creating pathways to hope for children who have experienced or been exposed to child abuse, domestic violence, or sexual assault gives children the opportunity to break the generational cycle of violence in their families. Children that take part in Camp HOPE, experience an evidence-based curriculum that is designed specifically to help them navigate their way to violence-free and abuse-free futures. The focus of the lessons, activities and campfires are to help children believe in themselves, believe in each other and believe in their dreams. When individuals are able to believe in their self, others and their dreams they are able to process the abuse they have endured, seek positive alternatives and be less likely to turn to violence and rage as an answer. Shasta County’s families are faring worse than many throughout the state and nation when it comes to exposure to Adverse Childhood Experience (ACEs). The ACEs study linked traumatic childhood experiences with health status and behaviors of participants. The study showed alarming links between ACEs and risky behavior, psychological issues, serious illness (including mental health), and is the leading causes of early death. The ACEs study was replicated in 2012 in Shasta County and found that of the 281 Shasta County residents who participated, 29% of respondents reported five or more ACEs in their life compared with just 9% in other parts of the country. Shasta County is 52% higher in substantiated child abuse and neglect than the state’s average.
According to research, youth with high ACE scores are highly likely to fall victim to tragic health outcomes as adults (Hunt, Berger, Slack, 2018). For example, if a person has an ACE score of four (4) or higher they are 3,600% more likely to become an injection drug user (this jumps to 4,600% at ACE 6+); 1,200% greater likelihood of attempting suicide as an adult (this jumps to 2,900% at ACE 6+); 1,200% more likely to be a sexual assault victim; 700% more likely to become an alcoholic; 300% more likely to become a domestic violence victim (125% for men); 200% greater likelihood of severe obesity and with an ACE score of six (6) or higher will die 20 years earlier. It is clear that with higher ACEs the physical and mental health issues dramatically increase. However, high ACE scores don’t need to be a death sentence. With early intervention and programs that provide pathways to hope and healing, ACE scores among youth can be mitigated or reduced. That is the goal of our program. We will take 48 youth ages 8-17 to Camp HOPE – Pathways. The weeklong adventure will include, whitewater river rafting, ropes courses, horseback riding and more. Most importantly, we will follow an evidence-based curriculum that is designed for high ACEs youth to create pathways to hope and healing. Camp counselors are trauma informed young adults ages 18-26 that create a solid bond with the camper. After camp, youth will have the opportunity to visit the Anderson Teen Center daily, take part in monthly group mentoring activities with their camp counselors and be offered in-home case management for the whole family. Our program includes a full time Pathways to Hope Coordinator that will utilize evidence-based programs like Triple P, Safe Care, job skills training and work with the Five Protective Factor framework.