The ERUTAN COMMUNITY is intended to tackle one of the largest unmet needs in foster care: keeping siblings together. Our primary goal is to maintain and nurture the stabilizing bond between brothers and sisters by keeping them together as a family unit. Our vision it to provide safe, loving, child-centered family homes in an educational-community setting for siblings who have been removed from their biological families. Our concurrent program – the ERUTAN PARENT CENTER – will treat and rehabilitate parents in order to facilitate the successful reunification of families whenever possible.
The ERUTAN COMMUNITY concept has evolved from our years of experience operating CAMP ERUTAN, a camp program based in California, New York and Hawaii which temporarily reunites siblings separated by the foster care system. A nonprofit, tax-exempt charity founded in 1987, CAMP ERUTAN provides a creative, secure, harmonious environment offering therapeutic play with an emphasis on nature and expressive arts. Children with backgrounds of abuse and neglect often have difficulty learning in traditional settings. We have found that our techniques of educational enhancement and the camp experience as a whole have contributed to children’s emotional healing, confidence-building, and modification of negative behavior. We are committed to creating year-round ERUTAN COMMUNITIES nationwide, modeled on these same principles. However, since evaluation and documentation are integral components of successful replication, in Stage One of our project we will create a single ERUTAN COMMUNITY as a prototype for future development. We are dedicated to becoming an effective alternative to the current foster care system, especially for siblings.
The ERUTAN COMMUNITY is geared toward the permanent placement of children who have been removed from their homes and can be neither reunited with their biological families nor adopted. We will provide these kids with the opportunity to heal and grow into fully actualized adults in an environment where all aspects of growth are facilitated and celebrated, a safe haven where one can develop, test and explore without the fear and insecurity of being moved and separated from their siblings and newly created families. Adolescents require a healthy balance between freedom, appropriate supervision, and discipline tempered with love. They need to know they are not going to be rejected by those they have grown to trust. The ERUTAN COMMUNITY educational component will provide opportunities for students to develop the fundamental skills of critical thinking, speaking, reading, writing, math and creative problem solving. In addition to a state-of-the-art school, each community is planned to include an organic farm, orchard, sports complex, performing and living arts center, multimedia complex and wellness center. Adult members of the ERUTAN COMMUNITY will be carefully selected as positive role models to provide guidance, mentoring and appropriate love. Special training will be an ongoing aspect of our program. Medical, psychological, and social services will also be onsite.
A top priority of the ERUTAN COMMUNITY is to give back to the larger community. Involving young people in community-service projects enhances their sense of self-worth and helps them realize that they have the ability to make a positive impact in their own lives and in the world. It is important for children to know they have a voice – and to know how to use it. Their opinions are significant and make a difference. The ERUTAN COMMUNITY will honor and respect each child’s voice.
Studies show that children emerging as adults from the foster care system are the group most likely to experience homelessness, incarceration or other institutionalization; to lack a high school diploma and employment; to suffer from alcoholism and/or drug addiction. Child abuse and neglect is a self-perpetuating cycle. People who were abused and/or neglected as children are the most likely to become abusive parents. The ERUTAN COMMUNITY will help children break their potential cycle of abuse and social dependency, which has for too many families become an intergenerational tradition at great cost to the larger community as well as to themselves personally. One of the long-term effects we expect to see is a reduction of negative outcomes such as prison, welfare and dependency.
There is no such thing as a bad child, only bad situations. We cannot change where these children have come from, but we can help them to prevent the horrific events they have experienced in their young lives from being repeated. The ERUTAN COMMUNITY will provide children with the tools they need to bridge the gap between their fractured pasts and the lives they can choose to lead as adults as they reach their full potential.