Under One Sky was founded in 1994 when Founding Director, Diane Delafield, recognized a need to support older youth in foster care in North Carolina in their development and transition to adulthood. She spent six months conducting a statewide study researching the needs, issues and challenges facing the North Carolina foster care system, which resulted in a comprehensive report for the Children’s Home Society of North Carolina and the subsequent launching of Campaigns for Kids in 1996. From the statewide work in recruitment for youth in foster care, Diane Delafield realized that recruitment was not enough for youth in foster care who were seeking adoption—they themselves needed consistent support for their own journey towards adoption and permanency.
Extensive assessment began. Through interviews with hundreds of children and families across the state, it became clear that recruitment was just not enough. Adoption placements would often disrupt due to youths’ behaviors, beliefs and attitudes, as well as the lack of coping skills on the part of adoptive parents to meet their children’s special needs. Youth not only needed a place to share their experiences, fears and hopes surrounding adoption, but also receive the opportunities, skills and emotional and behavioral support they needed to become successful. The research revealed that no program yet existed to address these needs. Early on, NC Kids Adoption and Foster Care Network became a mentoring partner to Under One Sky to support the development and implementation of a program to address these critical and unmet needs for North Carolina’s children and youth.
The Beginning of Passages Camp:
As an adoptive parent of a teenager, Ms. Delafield envisioned a camp-based experiential learning and mentoring program for youth. In 2004, Under One Sky, as an educational non-profit in partnership with the Department of 4-H Youth Development of NC State University and county Departments of Social Services, initiated the development of a Camp for Youth in Foster Care that would serve the unique needs of youth in foster care and adoptive families. The first pilot Passages Camp was held in 2004 for young people in foster care on an adoption track. By the fall of the same year, Under One Sky was one of six organizations in the country to receive a federal multi-year grant from the Administration for Children and Families to fund their innovative camp-based adoption recruitment program.
The First Five Years:
In the first five years of camp programming, over 75 youth attended an average of two years in Passages and more than a hundred families have participated in Under One Sky’s Village Adoption Connection recruitment events and related activities. Programming was expanded to support families with adopted youth in our program while creating advocacy, mentoring and community outreach programs to further enrich the lives of the youth enrolled in Passages. In the fall of 2009, Under One Sky (the original non-profit name) held its last camp. The future was unsure as funding resources became scarce. Despite the uncertainty, however, many of the youth who had been involved in camp, as well as staff, stayed connected over the next 18 months.
Chapter 2: 2010-2013
Many counties that had regularly sent their youth to camp over the years felt the absence of opportunity and support that the Under One Sky program had afforded them. At the request of social workers and county administrators alike, Diane Delafield, Holly Paar and several other staff of the former Under One Sky, Inc. created Journey Camp, a small camp program under Connecting Families and Kids (formerly Campaigns for Kids). For the next two years, camp grew to include youth from five different counties and for the first time, consisted of youth not just on an adoption track, but also youth whose goals included reunification and kinship placement. Meanwhile, with the vision and mission of creating a village to support adoptive and foster families as well as youth aging out of the foster care system, the Under One Sky Village Foundation (U1SVF) was formed as a non-profit under Diane Delafield’s direction in 2013. That fall, U1SVF officially brought Journey Camp into its non-profit fold.
Chapter 3: 2014-present
Going into 2014, the Under One Sky Village Foundation looks forward to expanding its foundation for a multi-generational village that will support both families and youth. For many years, Diane Delafield and other staff have kept the vision of creating the village alive, bringing social workers, youth and families together to determine what would be the most important aspects in creating a multi-generational foster and adoptive community. With camp reinstated and strong, along with developing opportunities through other programs such as Second Wind, U1SVF stands in a place to see its vision and mission come to fruition in the years to come.
“Under One Sky guided me to a place of self-worth and happiness. With the love and support I gained as a youth in the program, I find it possible to make a difference in people’s lives, including the campers I know mentor. Hope is alive and thriving in this program, and I am blessed to have the opportunity to change the world with the people who helped change me.”
Brandon Nivens, Camp Counselor and former camper