?AT HOME, I?M CLARK KENT. AT CAMP, I?M SUPERMAN:? OUTCOMES AND PROCESSES OF A CAMP FOR YOUTH WITH HIV/AIDS
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Understanding how inputs influence program outcomes is a key step in designing and implementing quality youth programs to support positive development. While developmental processes are assumed to be universal for all populations, youth who face additional challenges in their development (such as those with chronic illness) may have unique experiences in youth programs. Using Developmental Systems Theory as the guiding theory, the purpose of this study was to understand the developmental context for youth with HIV/AIDS at a barrier-free camp. This study addressed the specific questions: (1) what were the developmental outcomes experienced by youth as a result of attending camp; and (2) what were the processes that facilitated youth development at camp? An interpretive case study employing observations, focus groups, and interviews was used to investigate the research questions. Findings show that camp plays a major developmental role in the lives of youth with HIV/AIDS. Four thematic outcomes of camp emerged: (1) experiencing caring people, (2) developing a sense of belonging, (3) feeling reprieve and recreation, and (4) increasing knowledge, attitudes, and skills. The four themes were strongly linked together, being nested within each other in a temporal order. When campers experienced caring people, they had a sense of belonging. These two relationship-based outcomes opened a space for feelings of reprieve (from responsibilities and stigma at home) and recreation (to engage in fun activities) at camp, and this relaxed space provided an opportunity for increasing knowledge, attitudes, and skills. Processes that contributed most to the campers? experiences of caring people were long-term relationships, outside of camp support, exposure and storytelling, and Teen Talk (an educational workshop). Processes contributing to campers? development of a sense of belonging were acculturation into the camp; an educational activity called Teen Talk, medication taking, grieving, aging out of camp, and storytelling. Processes contributing to campers? experiences of reprieve and recreation were camp activities (including Teen Talk); planning for the needs of campers, accessibility, and freedom from worry. Processes contributing to campers? development of knowledge, attitudes, and skills were education through Teen Talk, and non-Teen Talk education. Implications for theory, research, and practice are discussed.