CBSN

Bringing Foster Kids Back Together

Girl blows bobbles
AP
Foster care can be a lifesaver for children. But there's often an unfortunate side effect: Children are separated from their siblings.

In Thursday's American Hero segment, meet a woman who has come up with a perfect way to bring kids back together, if for just one week at summer camp.

Nine-year-old D.J. loves just about everything at camp. He gets to hike, swim, and hang out with his friends. But the best part is putting his arms around his two sisters.

Separated first in foster homes, then in two adoptive families, it's been more than a year since D.J. has seen his sisters. At Camp To Belong, they get a chance to know each other all over again. CBS News Correspondent Hattie Kauffman reports.

D.J says, "Camp is called Camp To Belong because you're supposed to belong with your brothers and sisters, not separated."

So for one week, once a year, Camp To Belong brings them together.

Seventy-five percent of siblings are separated when they enter foster care. Many never see each other except during court-ordered visits.

Rory says, "This is the longest time we've ever hung out with each other for years." Rory and his brother Vid live in separate foster homes only a mile apart.

Vid says, "It's great, I love this place, definitely. It's just a chance to be with my brother and do all the things you never get to do in the normal world."

There would be no Camp To Belong without Lynn Price.

Vid says, "Lynn has to be one of the coolest people I know."

Lynn says, "We give them that quality time, so there's not necessarily somebody taking notes or evaluating what they're doing. And because they can let down their shoulders and be with other kids who are like them, it's magical."

Lynn knows firsthand the importance of the sibling bond. She was a foster child herself.

She says, "I never even knew I had a sister until I was 8 years old. For 10 years, she was like a stranger. We've got that bond now, and I guess when we come to Camp To Belong, it radiates for kids."

Now reunited, Lynn and her sister, Andi, run camp together. Their program is a year-round labor of love.

Lynn notes, "We never wanted kids to use the system as an excuse not to do good for themselves. Through our advocacy and our policy-making and our mentoring, we can not only make them strong as individuals and as siblings, but help direct them towards their futures."

And the foundation to make that happen, Lynn says, begins with trust.

She says, "There's sibling rivalry - in our own caring, with our sticking with them, is the best therapy that any kid could get."

Eric says, "The first two years, I just cried. You have all that stuff bottled up inside of you, but it was like therapy. I got it all out of me and you feel so great now"

Eric's experience at camp has been so positive, he's back this year as a counselor in training.

He says it means a lot for him to be with his brother. "I love being with him. He's one of my best friends I could ever have."

His brother Dan adds, "If there was no Camp To Belong, I'd just drift further and further apart from my brother and this is what keeps our bond strong."

Lynn says a week can change lives. "We know it can. We know that kids have gone back more positive."

The sad part is when the week is over. Lynn says, "it breaks my heart a lot. I know they're going back to the challenges. But if we gave them that much more friendship and hope and that ability to use their voice and their ability to see each other, then I'm happy and it overrides the sadness."

To Chelsea, Lynn is "an angel. She is the one that thought of this, that brought this camp together." Irene adds, "I just think she's the greatest. I think she's my super hero."

What does Lynn think about that? "Well, that's amazing. I think they're our heroes. You know, they're the ones that have to open their hearts to us. They're the ones that have to open their minds to us. We just give them the opportunity to do so. To be called a hero is pretty awesome, " Lynn says with tears in her eyes as she holds her sister.

Since starting Camp To Belong in 1995, Lynn Price has reunited more than 1,000 brothers and sisters. Plans are in the works to start camps in five other states.