Hope Meadows "Kinship" Model for Adoptive Families Goes National

Bridge Meadows
Child Advocacy 360
Harvey Chipkin
December 8, 2011

The Hope Meadows model is going national. The intergenerational concept that has been so successful in Rantoul, Illinois, saw the opening of the first fully developed community closely patterned on Hope Meadows when Bridge Meadows opened in Portland, Oregon in June. Like Hope Meadows, the Portland community is built as an intergenerational community for adoptive families of foster children.

According to Brenda Eheart, founder of Generations of Hope (GOH), which operates Hope Meadows, there has been "a lot of cooperation" between her organization and Bridge Meadows. "They wanted to copy the Hope Meadows model with three generations living in a neighborhood where homes are contiguous. There are children from foster care who need to be adopted and seniors volunteering in caring for them. They also adopted our philosophical and operational principles."

But Eheart is not resting on this development. Activity is taking place across the country, she said, for other intergenerational initiatives - all with different constituency models.

Bridge Meadows: A Different Approach in Portland, Oregon

There were several differences in how Bridge Meadows is handling the intergenerational concept:

  • It is a very urban model in the heart of the city, according to Eheart. It has two acres while Hope Meadows has 20. The good news: The developer at Bridge Meadows has become such a convert to the work, it wants to help develop communities around the country. "I think the developer hurdle is over," said Eheart; "and it's great to now have urban and rural models for future development."
  • Bridge Meadows is a "kinship model"with relatives raising other relatives. There are grandparents, great-aunts and great nieces, all kinds of different kinship connections, including guardianships - whatever works best. "What I love is that this connects even more strongly the birth family of these kids with an adoptive family" said Eheart.

There are now five Hope Meadows-inspired sites - all different. Bridge Meadows is the community with which GOH has worked.

Development on the Horizon

GOH is "seriously working" to identify the next three - possibly four - sites that it will work with intensively, starting with development and construction. All these future sites will have social challenges. One is in South Carolina near Hilton Head where a community for adults with disabilities will be living with their parents. There will be situations where parents may not be able to care for the child ten years from now - and where children will need support when parents pass away.

Another emerging community is in New Orleans, which is being developed for wounded warriors. Here Vietnam War vets may serve as senior volunteers.

A number of other sites are on the horizon, including several in Ohio.

Growth Means A Need For More Funding - And More Communication

To support all this, GOH is launching a $20 million capital campaign because they need to put a person in each of three to four sites at any one time. The Kellogg Foundation has funded GOH for the next two years but the organization has to find another source of funds to help expand the staff to work more closely with new sites.

The GOH story is getting out. An organization called Elfenworks, which focuses on storytelling about good works, recently gave a $25,000 award to GOH. "They are wonderful in making connections and getting stories out," said Eheart.

Rethinking Hope Meadows

Even with all the development, Eheart says attention must be paid to Hope Meadows where demographic shifts require action. After 15 years, some of the original seniors are now in their 80s. GOH received $1 million from the state of Illinois to build Hope House with four state-of-the-art apartments for the elderly, a need that will continue to grow.. "We want to keep them out of the hospital or, if they do go in, to have shorter stays," says Eheart.. "We have to determine the capacity of a caring community in keeping pace with the frail elderly."

Who's Doing What That Works

In 1994, Brenda Krause Eheart and Martha Bauman Power, researchers at the University of Illinois, used a million-dollar grant from the state of Illinois to turn a decommissioned air force base into Hope Meadows, an intergenerational community of supports for children in foster care, their adoptive families and seniors.

Today, Hope Meadows has an enviable adoption rate of nearly 90-percent and average time to adoption of under two years. Paradoxically, it is Hope Meadows' success and stability that is bringing new challenges. The passing of time has changed the dynamic of the community. Many of the children are now teens. At the same time, many of the seniors are now in their 70s and 80s, and facing the challenges of aging.

"We think of children in foster care and of aging people as 'burdens' to society, but the opposite is true-all the generations begin to take care of each other, from within and not top-down," says Brenda Eheart.

This article was originally published by Child Advocacy 360.  It is reprinted here with permission.

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