It is said that there are only two stories – a person goes on a journey or a stranger comes to town. Children who are removed from their families and placed in foster care are living both stories at the same time.
Take 5 year old Ali. Last week she was living at home with her mother who suffers from poor mental health. A call was made to the Department of Children and Families by a teacher citing neglect. A visit to the home was made. Ali was picked up at school the next day by a social worker who she had never met before and taken to a foster home.
Being removed from one’s family and placed in foster care is traumatic. This experience, even when a child is being removed from an unsafe situation, can bring grief, shock, stigma, loss and a future filled with invisibility, shame and hopelessness.
Most children aren’t doing anything special when their lives break apart – one moment they are with their family or with their peers at school, the next they are not. This is a life altering experience. Some children have the resilience to cope with the unpredictability, loss and change inherent in our chiild welfare system. Others find it completely overwhelming.
Ali is a child who found the experience completely overwhelming. She is very close to her mom.
Losing her was simply too much to bear. She needed more than a foster home. She required hospitalization and round the clock support. Hopefully, she will feel better be placed in a
caring trauma informed foster family that lives in a community that understands her grief -
people of all ages who provide her with the kindness and compassion she needs.
We make a promise to children when we remove them from their homes: to provide them with
safety and find them a permanent loving connection if they cannot be returned to their first
family. In a timely fashion.
Somewhere along the way we forgot our promise and many children like Ali begin their
“bounce” – a series of homes, schools, people, and scattered memories. We know that all
children need to belong and be connected to loving people. They need to know that they
are cherished. Without these basic cornerstones, children become lost souls. Imagine if
Ali and her half million peers who are experiencing foster care were connected to a group
of adults who value, honor, love and support them. Imagine the difference this would make
for them and for our communities, schools, prisons and mental health facilities.
The Treehouse Foundation does imagine a different life for our children whose lives have been impacted by foster care. For the past decade we have been investing in widspread innovation designed to ensure that all children live healthy and productive lives. We envision every child being woven into a safety net of loving, respectful and caring relationships. In 2006 we opened the first multigenerational Treehouse Community to pro-actively address the “aging out” crisis. Every year in this country 25,000 young Americans “age out” of our public foster care system alone and at risk for homelessness, incarceration, teen parenting, unemployment and lives of poverty.
The Treehouse Community model provides a way for community members of all ages to help children move out of foster care into permanent loving adoptive homes so they are never at risk of “aging out”. For the past 7 years, over 100 people, ranging in age from infancy to 94, have been investing in one another’s health and well-being. Kids are moving out of foster care, being adopted by caring families, consistently supported by caring neighbors of all ages, succeeding in school, getting the mental health services they need, and heading off on career paths and/or to college where they are persuing their interests. Meanwhile, in 2010 the Treehouse Community launched the Re-Envisioning Foster Care in America Movement to harness creative ideas and leverage people and dollar resources to better serve our children and youth placed in foster care. In addition to planning and hosting four Annual Re-Envisioning Foster Care in America Conferences and facilitating 8 regional REFCA Working Groups in western MA, the Treehouse Foundation is creating a regional REFCA Road Map and Implementation Plan Process for Franklin, Hampshire and Hampden Counties – a replicable template that can shared with all 50 states.
Children like Ali are homeless in the deepest sense. Many have lost their families, their innocence and their dreams. The Treehouse Foundation wants to inspire a Re-Envisioning of Foster Care in America so that every child is rooted in family and community. Treehouse is creating a Culture of Collaboration so that every child in America is given the opportunity to experience a life that is valued, supported and well lived. Ali and her peers deserve to to have their hopes and dreams come true! Please help us make this possible. Donate as much as you can to the Treehouse Foundation. Help us become the Everyday Heroes that our children in foster care need us to be!