Day Camps are Vital to the Under-served: A perspective from four social workers

Summertime for children and youth usually means swimming pools, free time spent with friends, and one other great equalizer: day camps.  Although summer camps have historically been costly and thus only available to middle- and upper–class youth, free day camps at schools and community centers with a high level of children and youth living poverty have been summer day camps accessible to all by the passage of the After-school education and safety grant (ASES). 

With the ASES grant California schools with high levels of poverty have been able to provide low cost, often free after-school enrichment programming and summer day camps.  

Costly day camps that cater to specific interests like gymnastics, sports, and theater are extremely beneficial, however it is imperative to recognize the invaluable resources that ASES camps provide. 

These resources include physical activity, socialization, and most importantly USDA funded meals for any child under 18. Schools and community centers with high levels of poverty are still providing free meals to any child or youth during the COVID-19 pandemic, but families may not be aware of these free meals because their children aren’t attending day camps at the school daily. 

The risk or not participating in day camp goes beyond lost opportunities to engage with their peers, it could be the difference between having a meal that day or going hungry. As social workers working with children and youth, we have seen the benefits of free summer day camps and the necessary resources they provide to the community. 

By Ivonne Martinez , Adriana Sandoval , Edlin Vasquez, and Rosie Wolfrum