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For immediate release: May 26, 2017
Contact: Monica Mahaffey
Phone: 518-402-3130

New York State Celebrates Foster Care Appreciation Month With Free Camping or Empire Passes for Foster Families

The New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (State Parks) and the New York State Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) are celebrating foster families with an opportunity to explore the outdoors by visiting parks throughout the season and enjoying overnight camping experiences. Foster families statewide are invited to participate on a first come-first served basis to receive either a gift card for a stay at a state park campground, or an Empire Pass to enjoy New York State Parks all summer long.

“Finding new ways to connect families to state parks is always a goal,” said State Parks Commissioner Rose Harvey. “We are happy to help foster families connect with the many exciting adventures our parks have to offer while showing our appreciation for caring for children who need them.”

There are approximately 13,000 children in foster care throughout New York State. Fortunately, there are families who undergo foster parent training and willingly open their homes to these children to provide a safe, stable and nurturing environment. Even though these homes are comforting, being in foster care can still be a stressful time for the children, who can feel personal loss when they are separated from their families and are in unfamiliar patterns of living. Foster parents help foster children cope with the stresses of this separation. Normal family activities like a vacation or camping trip, which may not be possible in a family’s budget, can help to alleviate the pressure of being in foster care.

“Numerous research studies have shown that outdoor recreation reduces stress and promotes positive feelings,” said OCFS acting Commissioner Sheila J. Poole. “We are glad to have this wonderful opportunity to give back to our foster families with some family fun time outdoors. We hope they will make memories that will last a lifetime.”

Families will have two options: The Empire Pass or a gift card for free camping. The camping gift card has a value of $80 and can be redeemed for camping reservations and walk-ups (equal to a two-night weekend stay at a campsite), and/or other purchases such as supplies, firewood, ice etc. when provided by New York State Parks. The Empire Pass provides for day-use vehicle entry to the state parks and many other state recreation facilities for the calendar year.

In New York State, the foster care system is supervised by OCFS and directly administered by local departments of social services (LDSS).

To be eligible for the giveaway, the foster family must have demonstrated a strong commitment to being a foster parent by being a certified foster/adoptive family, and must have one or more foster children. Eligible foster families will receive notice through the mail of the opportunity to apply. OCFS and State Parks hope to serve 500 families through this program.

About OCFS
OCFS serves New York by promoting the safety, permanency, and well-being of children, families, and communities. OCFS maintains an active social media presence. “Like” the New York State Office of Children and Family Services Facebook page and follow @NYSOCFS on Twitter in English or the Spanish-language Twitter account, @NYSOCFS Espanol.

About State Parks
The New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation oversees more than 215 parks, historic sites, trails, golf courses, boat launches and more, which are visited by 69 million people annually. A recent study found that New York State Parks generates $1.9 billion in economic activity annually and supports 20,000 jobs. For more information on any of these recreation areas, call 518-474-0456 or visit, connect on Facebook, or follow on Twitter.