State Waives Camp Fees for Foster Families
Foster children and their caregivers can enjoy big savings while camping in Washington state parks, because of a program established by the Legislature last year.
Campsite fees are waived for foster parents and relative caregivers with a foster child currently in their care, according to a news release from the Washington State Department of Social & Health Services (DSHS). Camp fees range between $19 and $33 a night, depending on location and type of site. For qualifying families, the camping fee is waived. Camping at a first-come, first-served park has no charge, and campers reserving sites in reservation parks pay only the $8.50 reservation fee.
The free campsite program is the result of a law passed by the Washington Legislature and signed by Gov. Chris Gregoire last year. The law allows for reduced prices for Washington foster parents and relative caregivers of children when they camp with children in their care.
The program is coordinated jointly by the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission and the DSHS's Children's Administration.
"The free campsites program is one way we can lend a hand and say thank you to foster parents and relative caregivers," said Randy Hart, acting assistant secretary for the Children's Administration. "Something as ordinary as a camping trip can have special meaning for youth in foster care. It allows them to share in the kind of fun family activities others may take for granted and provides opportunities for kids to build confidence and strengthen ties with their host families away from the usual distractions of everyday life."
"We are very happy to offer this program," said Rex Derr, state parks director. "We know that many foster families already enjoy their state parks and were very appreciative of the opportunity last year. The current economic environment can be challenging for everyone. This is one of the best ways to have an affordable family vacation in surroundings unmatched for beauty, natural history and range of activities. These camping trips and visits to our parks create the kind of new experiences and happy memories that stay with kids for the rest of their lives."
Camping is available in 84 state parks, with more than 50 parks offering camping by reservation and the remainder offering camping first-come, first-served.
To be eligible for the passes, licensed foster parents must provide foster parent identification or a foster home license in addition to a photo ID such as a driver's license when registering in any state park. To make the telephone reservation, participants tell the operator they are a caretaker in the program and then show the appropriate ID upon arrival at the park.
Relative caregivers must provide a relative caregiver identification card and a driver's license when registering at a state park. Relative caregivers are closely related caretakers for children who can't live with their parents.