Why build an intergenerational neighborhood where families who are adopting children from foster care live with elders? At Treehouse we believe that when families raising children who have experienced foster care live together in an intergenerational village with high quality, stable housing and responsive community supports, it increases the likelihood that children will grow up with enduring family and community relationships that promote their health and well-being, as well as the health and well-being of all of the adults that surround them. A Treehouse parent described it so well:
“Here’s the BIG PICTURE VISION that I have:
I think our vision is … to create a village, a web of people who reach in to offer support and help. Not in a gushy way, but in an instinctively practical way, where we do what’s needed to make life work more easily for the whole. Having the basic assumption be that we are interdependent!
So much in our society is isolated, fragmented, too fast, impermanent; we’re expected to be strong and independent nuclear families, like that’s a natural thing. It’s totally unnatural, when you look at how humans evolved – in interdependent hunter/gatherer groups, banded together for survival and companionship. We’re meant to have all ranges of ages, we’re meant to have the youngest learn from the oldest, and for the oldest to feel renewed with the youngest, to pass down the experience.
I believe it’s the best way to create a wider “clan” and to help kids who’ve been ripped out of their birth context and who have had such a tough start. The analogy I see best is that they are like a piece of fabric that’s been ripped out of its original place in a tapestry – normally, adoptive parents have to simultaneously hold the children and try to weave them into their isolated section, using themselves and their personal network. At Treehouse, we can have parents concentrate on holding the children, while letting the larger community – where we all live and play and walk and see each other in organic contexts – weave a stronger and richer, more textured fabric to secure them in their new place. Many threads make a stronger bond than a few.”
Living and working in such a rich and diverse neighborhood is a remarkable experience. Building trust and relationships, thoughtfully establishing a flexible and responsive neighborhood – that takes time, for both children and adults. The biggest gift: that there are over 100 people living on Treehouse Circle, ranging in age from 1 – 85 years. We are not perfect. We are human. We are in process. That means we are all learning something valuable every day and along the way, lives are being enhanced. I felt it all day yesterday: watching kids and adults playing with hula hoops, folks cooking in the kitchen, people preparing for Saturday’s Bake Sale. Then I experienced it again last night. You should have seen the faces of the elders playing cards! First I heard their laughter. Then I saw their smiles…. People of all ages feeling connected, belonging, sharing their lives. What could be more valuable?