Roseville — For the last two weeks, Mike Cyplik has attended an elementary school whose playground he once played on, in the hopes his children start life on a different path.

The Warren resident, 41, was raised at a time when child discipline  was solved with a belt, and he wants to do better. He came to Camp Care to learn the problem-solving skills he never did as a child and to share what he's learned with his children: Collin, 5, Chloe, 7, and stepson Lennon Koss, 6. 

The two-week camp was held this summer at Fountain Elementary School in Roseville, and is put on by Care of Southeastern Michigan, a non-profit that works with addicts and the addiction-affected in Wayne and Macomb counties.

“These kids are born into high risk,” said camp counselor Lisa Kaplan, a longtime former staffer with the host organization, Care of Southeastern Michigan. These days Kaplan works in community education at Henry Ford Maplegrove, an addiction treatment center in West Bloomfield Township, but still returns to serve Camp Care as the licensed social worker the camp is required to have on staff.

“Prevention is a great part of what we do,” Kaplan said. 

Kids and parents can check in with Kaplan when emotions run high, when they need help putting thought to feelings and turning feelings to words. 

In addition to the 53 children, ranging in age from pre-school to 12th grade, who take part in the Camp Care, eight parents or guardians are enrolled in the parent/caregiver workshop, said camp coordinator Tiffany Jameson. 

“My parenting skills are all messed up,” Cyplik said before the morning started. “Shoot from the hip, lots of emotion — same way I was raised.”

But in just a short time, Cyplik said, he’s learned some tools to react differently when frustration strikes.

Perhaps the kids are bothering him because they want attention. Perhaps one sibling is being bugged by another and is looking for the adult in the room to listen. Whatever the situation, Cyplik says he’s learning to respond with questions about and interest in the child’s state of mind, rather than anger. 

“I’ve learned to be more observant,” Cyplik said. “Let some problems solve themselves. Don’t just react. We all seem to forget what it’s like to be 5, 6 years old.”

He recalled a recent situation where his kids were playing with sticks in the backyard, playing a little too rough, he thought. 

He didn’t huff and puff. He didn’t ask the kids to pull a switch from the sticks. He brought them inside and had them talk, at great length, about what they’d been doing and why. 

“I bored 'em to death,” he said and smiled as he sipped the last of his chocolate milk. 

Thursday morning, the day before the end of the two-week program, four men in olive-colored jumpsuits walked through the cafeteria door. Their presence could only mean one thing: the SWAT trucks were here. 

The purpose of the visit was to help the kids see SWAT, and police generally, with a human face. People with substance-abuse issues have more contact with the police than the general population. Their children sometimes witness parents being arrested. The SWAT visit, as with earlier visits from the Roseville police and fire departments, allowed kid and parent to have positive contact with public safety officials. 

The four deputy sheriffs offered no D.A.R.E.-style warnings about what drugs do to a person’s brain or employment prospects, just an opportunity for the kids to see, sit in and be pictured in big military-style vehicles. The Lenco Bearcat and MRAP tank are designed for desert warfare and are owned by the Macomb County Sheriff’s Office.

Between all the Care of Southeastern Michigan camps this summer, which include leadership academies in Harper Woods and Mount Clemens, somewhere between 150 and 200 kids will be served, Jameson said. 

Shelby Klein, 24, has spent many summers in Care camps, dating back to her childhood, when she was one of the kids in the program.

Now studying pre-med and psychology at Oakland University, Klein first attended Camp Care, which went by the name of Project Focus back then, at "7 or 8."

There she learned to navigate the Seven C's, which are foundational to the program: “I didn't CAUSE it...I can’t CURE it...I can’t CONTROL it...but I can take CARE of myself by COMMUNICATING feelings, making healthy CHOICES, and CELEBRATING myself.”

The Seven C's taught her that her family's issues were not hers to fix.

At camp, she came to feel “very accepted, listened to” for the first time. By 12, she was a youth volunteer. Now well into adulthood, she hopes to teach the children what she learned, that they’re free to choose differently and live differently than the adults in their lives.  

“I like helping them learn to celebrate themselves, and their little victories,” Klein said. “Getting out of bed is a victory, showing up is a victory. So many things we don’t think about are a big deal for a kid.”

The camp finished Friday after each class gave a presentation on some aspect of the Seven C's, and the parents shared what they'd learned. 

Kaplan said the kids and parents hopefully will apply the lessons at home. 

“We’re not going to change the world in two weeks,” Kaplan said. “But we can give them building blocks to make better choices.”

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