• May 2008
  • Vol. 9, No. 4

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Intergenerational Community Supports Foster and Adoptive Families

It has been over a decade since the experimental planned neighborhood of Hope Meadows was established in Rantoul, IL, just north of the University at Urbana-Champaign. While the five-block, 22-acre area that comprises this neighborhood has no visible boundaries, it contains a unique community that is home to families raising children adopted from foster care and to senior citizens who serve as supportive "grandparent" figures.

Hope Meadows came about in the early 1990s when academic researchers Brenda Krause Eheart and Martha Bauman Power raised funding to start Generations of Hope, a nonprofit corporation and child welfare agency. Once they acquired sufficient housing on a converted Air Force base, Hope Meadows was born. It was the beginning of a neighborhood where foster children would find permanent homes, parents would find community support, and seniors would find a renewed sense of purpose.

Parents and seniors apply to live in Hope Meadows. There is room for 12 families with children and approximately 60 seniors. The neighborhood also includes administrative offices and a community center. Child welfare and other social service staff from Generations of Hope are able to work from within the community to provide child welfare services and support the residents. The intergenerational community center serves as the hub of neighborhood activities, hosting everything from community potlucks to tutoring sessions.

In its 14-year history, there have been more than 50 adoptions of children from foster care at Hope Meadows, and this success has brought many accolades. In 2002, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Children's Bureau recognized the community with an Adoption Excellence Award.

The community model has generated interest for replication in other communities and with other populations. In 2006, a grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation was used to create the Generations of Hope Development Corporation (GHDC) to establish similar communities around the country. In addition to supporting families who adopt children from foster care, neighborhoods are being planned to support such groups as youth aging out of foster care and homeless or near-homeless families.

A recent white paper published by GHDC outlines the philosophical principles that underlie this intergenerational community in which the community is the intervention. The first key principle is that all residents are ordinary people; the second is that everyone has a capacity to care. These tenets provide the basis for a community in which social support is fully integrated, and social services, including child welfare services, complement and support community efforts.

For more information, visit the Generations of Hope website at www.generationsofhope.org. The most recent white paper, Generations of Hope Communities, by Brenda Krause Eheart, David Hopping, Martha Bauman Power, Elissa Thomann Mitchell, and David Racine, also is on the website:
www.generationsofhope.org/documents/GHC_White_Paper.pdf (PDF - 284 KB)

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