Jewish Camps More Focused on Needs of Disabled

A study released by the Foundation for Jewish Camp showed overnight camps are growing increasingly aware of the needs of children with disabilities.

The organization on Wednesday said the study showed a greater number of retreats for Jewish youth offered unique services to a larger number of children with special needs than previously expected.

“Camps were serving much larger numbers of children with disabilities than we thought before we did the research,” said Abby Knopp, vice president of program and strategy at the Foundation for Jewish Camp. “Also, the kids that are getting to camp are gaining the benefits; being more connected to Judaism, Israel and other Jewish kids.”

The survey quizzed 828 parents, campers, camp directors and staff from 124 Jewish camps around the country. About a third of the camps included in the study offered a track for children with special needs and just over half had staff exclusively dedicated to their care. Just over 90 percent of parents of children with disabilities said they were happy with their children’s experience at camp.

At the same time, pollsters said results might have been affected by the sample group, which consisted entirely of parents who enrolled their children at Jewish camps excluding parents that, for whatever reason, did not. Nonetheless, the group said the data was a good sign for Jewish camps.

“We are encouraged to see that families thus far are very happy with their Jewish camp experiences,” says Jeremy J. Fingerman, the Foundation for Jewish Camp’s CEO. “Now we can concentrate on creating more opportunities for more children to experience a joyful, transformative experience at Jewish camp.”

A group of experts are expected to submit a list of recommendations to the Foundation for Jewish Camp on how to further improve conditions for children with disabilities by the winter of 2014.

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