Brandywine Valley SPCA and DE Office of the Child Advocate announce Critter Camp scholarships for children in foster care

The partnership between BVSPCA and the CASA Program gives abused and neglected children the opportunity to learn about animals in a fun environment.

The Brandywine Valley SPCA (BVSPCA) and Delaware’s Office of the Child Advocate today announced a partnership which is providing children in foster care the opportunity to attend the popular Critter Camp program. In total, six children ages 6-12 from all three of Delaware’s counties received scholarships to Critter Camp in the summer of 2021 at the BVSPCA location closest to their residence.

The Office of the Child Advocate’s group of Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASAs) helped identify the scholarship recipients, all of whom have experienced abuse and neglect and are currently in foster care. BVSPCA Board member Michael Wilson, who serves as a CASA, helped initiate the partnership and personally sponsored several scholarships. These scholarships are a new way to provide humane animal education to an underserved population of children, and also contribute towards BVSPCA’s mission of focusing on the interconnection between people and pets.

“As a long-time advocate for the interests of children and of homeless pets, I’m proud to have helped children in foster care attend Critter Camp,” said Wilson. “Many of these kids are already interested in learning about animals. This is a meaningful and educational opportunity to be taught first-hand about showing compassion to animals of all kinds in a fun environment.”

While attending Critter Camp, the six scholarship recipients learned skills such as pet grooming, behavioral training and animal care, engaged in creative and educational activities, and heard from guest speakers from across the animal education world. Highlights from this year’s lessons included pet CPR, reading to shelter animals and K9 demos from local police. Critter Camp sessions are held every Summer at all four of the BVSPCA campuses, with Spring and Winter break sessions available as well. The six scholarships provided to foster children were part of a larger scholarship program that allowed 31 kids, many from low-income communities, to attend Critter Camp.

“This is an exciting first step towards what we hope will become a long-term strategic partnership between our organization and the CASA program,” said BVSPCA Chief Executive Officer Adam Lamb. “Critter Camp is one of our most popular initiatives and has educated future animal welfare advocates for years. I’m thrilled these six children were able to join us this summer, and am looking forward to providing this opportunity to more kids alongside the CASA program in the future.”

CASAs are a group of over 200 trained volunteers who are court-appointed to advocate on behalf of children who have experienced abuse and neglect and are in foster care. They provide a voice for clients up to the age of 21 in the legal system and beyond, and help ensure all of their needs are met. While their ultimate goal is to find every child in their care a permanent home, programs like Critter Camp give children in foster care educational and social experiences that can have a long-term impact on their mental and emotional well-being.

“It is such a delight to work with the caring BVSPCA staff and to offer this opportunity for children who are currently in foster care,” said Melissa Palokas, CASA State Director. “These camps gave a sense of normalcy and happiness to children who have experienced tremendous trauma.  I am so thankful to partner with BVSPCA and look forward to many more opportunities like this for the children we serve.”

Foster children who participated in Critter Camp this year have reported back how happy they are with the experience. “After day one of Critter Camp, both of my foster kids could not wait to return the next day,” said Carol P., a foster parent.

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