History

Heritage Camps for Adoptive Families (HCAF) exists to support the healthy development of families formed by adoption, and to promote the successful transition of adopted children into healthy, confident, well-​grounded adults who are proud of themselves, their families, and their heritage.

No other such resource exists in Colorado. HCAF started in 1991 with one summer heritage camp held for 60 families with children adopted from Korea. We incorporated as a nonprofit in 1995, and have grown to serve over 1,000 families annually from across the nation at our ten heritage camps: African/​Caribbean, Cambodian, Chinese I and II, Indian/​Nepalese, Korean, Latin American, REECA (Russian/​Eastern European/​Central Asian), and SEAPI (Southast Asian/​Pacific Islander. Current research in adoption supports HCAF’s approach to social integration and self-​esteem building: more than just an annual vacation for adoptive families, HCAF provides lasting community networks, meaningful cultural connections, and targeted information and referrals.

Since our incorporation in 1995, HCAF’s Executive Director Pam Sweetser has provided vital leadership and management to the organization, initially on a volunteer basis. With eight other adoptive parents, Pam served on the first Board of Directors, and was the sole HCAF staff member from her appointment as Executive Director in 1995 (a position that was unpaid until 1998), until 2005, when the first part-​time support employee was hired. To date, HCAF’s streamlined staff has grown to 1 full time, 1 half time, and 1 part-​time, but the bulk of the organization’s extensive operations has always been handled by volunteers. HCAF’s cadre of volunteers includes camp parent participants, community volunteers, camp alumni, and others annually totaling over 2,500 individuals contributing over 650,000 volunteer hours! Without our volunteers, we simply would not be able to exist!

With a strong history of smart growth, financial stability, and volunteer investment – plus the passionate involvement of our campers – HCAF has made a difference in the lives of thousands of participating children and their families over 20 years.

Testimonials

Parents comments about the value of heritage camps for their families:

African/​Caribbean Heritage Camp was about letting our children (and our whole family) be a part of something, of finding a place of belonging, and being so supported by everyone (other kids, families, and those awesome counselors!)

Being with all the other families and sharing the experience along with them…the sense of community and belonging and seeing our son smile more in one weekend that he does in an entire year! That’s what happens for us at Domestic Adotpion Camp every single year.

My daughter feels part of a community at Cambodian Heritage Camp — it is a miracle what happens to the kids at camp. I cannot thank you enough for the gifts she receives there. It is a blessing to be able to go and watch her blossom there. Thank you thank you thank you.

This was my daughter’s comment as she was leaving Chinese Heritage Camp: “I’d rather be here than with my soccer team! Meaning — camp was the most important thing in her life!

This is the highlight of our daughter’s year. We get as much value planning, preparing for, and discussing after the event as the event itself. It is a shared conversation that brings us closer together and makes some conversations possible that otherwise would be very difficult for us to fall into.

Our daughters integrate into this group at Chinese Heritage Camp II IMMEDIATELY. This is the only place this happens. It’s very nice to have this opportunity!

Prior to Heritage camp, my kids thought they were the only adopted kids from India on the planet, and it was seen (by them) as very, very uncool.. Now, they are comfortable with other kids knowing about their histories and will even talk openly about it. The difference in their self-​esteem and comfort with themselves is just astonishing, really. They were blown away the first time we came to camp. For the first time in their lives they were with other kids just like them! They were all kids of color!…and adopted!!…and from India!! I can’t express my gratitude adequately. Indian/​Nepalese Heritage Camp has done more for my family than a whole pile of books on adoption/​cross-​cultural family stuff, etc. ever could!

It’s worth so much to see our girls grow with confidence – giving them the tools to cope with adoption/​race issues we don’t fully understand. They look forward to seeing their long lasting friends and making new ones every year at FIPI Heritage Camp.

What we find most valuable about Korean Heritage Camp is the energy, friendship, and love that each of us feels (young and old) when we all gather together to celebrate and support one another. The counselors so fully exemplify this. They are amazing! There is just something powerful for each and everyone of us at Korean Heritage Camp! We are still feeling the charge.

The most valuable thing about REECA Heritage Camp is the chance to see ourselves reflected back to us by so many other families from so many other states, backgrounds, values, etc. There was such a wealth of information and problem solving techniques made available to us. The generosity, patience, and availability of the heritage camp staff was amazing. Our kids really loved seeing how similar their orphanage background and experiences were to other Russian kids and enjoyed the opportunity to use their native tongue. It was an absolutely outstanding and invaluable opportunity for us all!

The most valuable part of camp is the way our daughter looks forward to Vietnamese/​Thai Heritage Camp each year, and talks about different aspects of it all year. Her high level of comfort in being with kids and counselors that look like her, and being with multicultural families. Her pride in being “different” is such a refreshing contrast to how I grew up wanting to “blend in”.

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