catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 7, Num 19 :: 2008.10.24 — 2008.11.07


Growing up hopeful

There’s a place I’ve been lucky enough to write about, though I’ve never been there. It’s called Hope Meadows, and I want to live there, or somewhere like it, when I get old. Yes, the place’s name sounds just as sappy as any other place which people feel the need to name because old people live there. But that’s the secret. It’s not just old people who live there.

I was raised in tiny, non-extended kind of family. My children are part of the same kind of family. And, being as they are part of this American culture, I want them to go their own way, live their lives without worrying about me. Well, sort of. For a while anyway.

So, for myself, I’ve always wished for more family to help me raise my children-heck, to raise me. I hope my kids become independent, energetic, curious adults. And if they do, they’ll likely be moving on and moving around, just like all the recent generations have. And I’m going to be really long in the tooth if and when my kids manage to create some children of their own, who may well live many states away. So here’s the deal.

Brenda Krause Eheart, PhD, had spent ten years studying adoption and the foster care system in Illinois, and was an adoptive mom herself when she imagined a multigenerational community devoted to wrapping services and loving relationships around the needs of foster children. Hope Meadows became that place-where adoptive foster parents live alongside seniors who help create and care for new families.

“When I was little, I was always wondering how many days will it be before DCF would come and take me and my sister away,” says Brandon Laws. Now 19, Brandon is one of dozens of children who were spared an uncertain and possibly unsafe future in the foster care system because of Dr. Eheart’s dream.  

“I praise her for this community,” says Laws, now a freshman at the Community College of Rhode Island. “Without her, us kids would never have had a second chance in life. She made a way for us to come out of foster care, into a new life, a good life, and I’ll always thank her.” 

Arriving as a child of six, along with his sister, from an abusive foster home in Jackson, Mississippi, Laws admits that it took him a long time to trust people, but came to the realization that he had arrived someplace wonderful.  “Everyone there was kind. If you were having a bad day, you could always rely on finding someone to listen and talk to. It was a special place, for us kids but also for the adults,” he says. 

Eheart says that the love and benefits have flowed in both directions over the years.  “I couldn’t have predicted the shift that has occurred. The children, now teens, are looking after our elders, whose health is beginning to fail. They’re getting hip replacements, knee replacements, pacemakers, and it’s the children who are in touch every day, calling, stopping by to bring in the paper, to walk their dogs,” she says.

Today, Eheart is immersed in replicating the Generations of Hope model at sites around the country. “We need to have a lot more,” says Laws of the idea of creating new communities like the one that nurtured him. “There’s still more kids out there every day being abused, being hurt. If you could spread this out throughout the world, then a lot more kids will be able to have a better life. One is just not enough.”

There are more than 129,000 children in foster care in the U.S., but the multigenerational model has taken on some interesting mutations. A project in Oregon wants to serve women coming out of drug treatment, and back home in Rantoul, Eheart’s organization is talking about a community center with apartments attached for seniors who can no longer maintain their homes. 

“Down the road, I just don’t see the baby boomers putting up with the way things are now. This could easily be a retirement option, for aging in community,” Dr. Eheart says. “It’s my hope that, eventually, we will see in this country different ways to address a multitude of social issues. I honestly think our legacy is going to be showing that ordinary people of all ages and vulnerabilities can come together around a common purpose to effectively address social challenges.”

Additional resources:

your comments

comments powered by Disqus