The Oklahoman: Morning Bell: A summer camp for children dealing with trauma

By Ben Felder
Published: July 4, 2018

A child uses the intercom on an Oklahoma City police car June 21 during Camp Hope in Chouteau. The camp is for children who have experienced trauma. [Photo by Sarah Phipps, The Oklahoman]

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Good Wednesday morning, and happy Fourth of July!

As we enter the mid-summer months (just four weeks until OKC schools reopen), many children are attending summer camps. Camp Hope is an annual weeklong camp for kids who have witnessed or been victims of domestic violence, and it appears to be making a difference in a state that has high rates of children exposed to trauma, abuse and parental incarceration. 

“A lot of the families that we have here that have been involved in domestic violence,” said Darren Ransley, a member of Camp Hope’s leadership staff. “Law enforcement are the people that take away a specific part of the family. Fear comes from that. If you have law enforcement here, you have the opportunity to create a relationship with a friendly law enforcement officer.”

The Oklahoman‘s Kayla Branch had a story this week on the camp and its impact on the children and teenagers who attend. 

In fiscal year 2017, Oklahoma had 15,289 confirmed cases of child abuse — the highest rate in at least decade, according to a report by the Department of Human Services.

This type of trauma has a major impact on public schools. While Oklahoma schools have struggled through a decade of per-student funding decreases, resulting in larger class sizes and fewer classroom resources, it has come at the same time the rate of students dealing with a slate of social challenges has increased, exacerbating the negative impact of budget cuts.

The combination of the two forces has created a public school system that has floundered with low academic achievement and graduates who lack basic skills needed to succeed in today’s job environment, often ensuring the problems plaguing students are repeated for another generation.

“I think we have a lot more traumatized kids than we used to,” said Unsicker-Durham, 56, who first started teaching in the late 1980s. “My ability to focus on getting students to become better writers and better readers is much harder. I can’t do what I even did just two years ago.”

You can read more about the impact student trauma has on local schools here