Md. camp offers ‘extra family’ to kids with parents in criminal system

WASHINGTON — When a parent goes to prison, it can have a devastating effect on the children.

A recent Annie A. Casey Foundation study found that about 82,000 children in Maryland have incarcerated parents. And a camp in Maryland is trying to help give them five days away from everyday life and a sense of belonging.

“These children need extra family,” says Maria Robinson, the executive director of Camp Amazing Grace. “And that’s what we consider ourselves.”

Camp Amazing Grace is part of the Claggett Center, run by the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland. It’s on a 300-acre site in Western Maryland where kids have a chance to go canoeing, swimming and biking, as well as arts and crafts and activities geared toward building relationships and leadership skills.

“It caters to children of parents known to the criminal justice system,” Robinson says, ranging from incarceration, pretrial, probation and more. She adds that children from such families are often stereotyped, and that the camp helps the mothers and grandmothers who are so often the ones in a family who “hold tight and keep it moving.”

Kids also get a backpack filled with school supplies that will last at least the first three months of the school year, Robinson says.

Deneka Crowdy, 9, is a camp participant who says, “I love playing there, and being at that camp. It’s one of my favorite things.”

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