Eighteen years ago I became a foster parent after reading a newspaper article about a 5-month-old baby who was kidnapped from his crib in foster care. The article was a catalyst for my family to step up to the plate and support our foster care system. My husband and I enrolled in foster parent training classes and were delighted when two beautiful little sisters were placed in our home.
I entered the world of child welfare with a 5-month-old on one hip and a 17-month-old on the other. I knew very little about our foster care system. I had one foot in the “Land of Opportunity” where my children by birth grew up and where they received all of the resources they needed to live healthy, connected and fulfilling lives. My other foot was planted firmly in the “Land of Child Welfare” where resources were scarce and every year nearly 25,000 young people “age out” of foster care alone and at risk for homelessness, unemployment, incarceration, teen parenting and lives of poverty.
As a former teacher, I know that we make a promise to children when we remove them from their homes: to provide them with safety and to find them a permanent loving connection if they cannot be returned their first family.
I also knew that the children and youth living in foster care need a passionate advocate, so I sold my businesses and dedicated myself to inviting Americans of all ages and backgrounds to become resources to children in their communities and inspiring a Re-Envisioning of Foster Care in America.
The first thing I did was to establish a vibrant nonprofit organization called the Treehouse Foundation. Treehouse’s vision: Every child rooted in family and community. Our goal: To move children out of foster care into permanent, loving families and communities that invest in their hopes, dreams, lives and futures. Our award winning approach: intergenerational communities where families adopting children from foster care live next door to older Americans (55+) who act as “honorary grandparents”.
Treehouse is a special place where all generations thrive. It is a place of belonging, connection and community. It is a compassionate neighborhood where diversity, foster/adoptive families and elders are honored and celebrated.
Over the first decade of Life on Treehouse Circle, we have accomplished many milestones. Kids are growing up surrounded by people who love them. They are graduating from school and heading off to college and vocational programs to pursue their dreams. They are graduating from college.
Families are helping move children out of foster care. Elders are passing on their knowledge to the next generation. People of all ages are living lives of purpose and meaning. Together we are creating a Culture of Possibility.
This year, as we plan our 11th Anniversary, the Treehouse Team is preparing to share the learning. We are collaborating with stellar teams in California and Massachusetts to plan and build two more Inter-generational communities.
As we prepare to watch The Hero Effect episode about the innovative Treehouse Community, we are delighted to be given this fabulous opportunity to show the nation how worthy our children and youth who have experienced foster care are. We invite all of The Hero Effect viewers to come stand together under the Banner of Shared Responsibility with us so that all generations thrive!