Changing the Narrative of the Foster Care System

My friend and esteemed colleague, award-winning journalist Daniel Heimpel, is the founder and director of Fostering Media Connections based in California. He is touring the country documenting innovative programs and practices that elevate foster care in a variety of ways and trying his hardest to get local media to talk about them. He recently wrote, “We need to change the entire narrative of the foster care system: from the image of something broken to that of a system on the mend. That shift in narrative is very difficult to accomplish. The media’s understanding of foster care is limited, a decade behind what is really happening; and the inertia associated with the established narrative has deep roots.”

Our individual and collective visions and strategies for changing the narrative of the foster care system nationwide include shining the spotlight on innovative solutions and compelling new options being developed by The Treehouse Foundation, Sibling Connections, Bridge Meadows, The Kinship Center, Generations Together and many others across the country.

Recently the Treehouse Foundation had the honor of being hosted by two philanthropic Giving Circles. At both of these grass roots events, where speakers were surrounded by ordinary citizens who were eager to learn about the dynamic programs being developed to support young Americans experiencing foster care, I was struck by the level of interest that community members of all ages demonstrated – folks want to shift the foster care narrative. They want to become engaged. They just don’t know how. Now they have some interesting possibilities to choose from.

Check out this compelling menu of engagement options that the Treehouse Foundation offered up at recent fundraisers. It offers kids, teens, young adults, families and older adults some exciting new ways to plug in and become part of that narrative change here in Massachusetts. Feel free to select one to support yourself!
If you live in the Bay Area, Daniel is hosting a Fostering Media Connections Mixer tonight. Check out the Fostering Media Connections website or his Facebook page to find out the details.

Treehouse = Family & Community

The Treehouse Approach is
creating a culture of possibility &
changing the narrative of foster care.
It is definitely Out of the Foster Care Box!

The Treehouse Community is a multi-generational neighborhood where families who are adopting children from foster care live with caring neighbors in a vibrant village that fosters connections between people of all ages. Since 2006, over 100 people, ranging in age from 4-90 have been investing in one another’s lives on Treehouse Circle.

Treehouse is also a Center of Innovation for Foster/Adoptive Care that supports children whose lives have been impacted by foster care throughout an entire region.

How do we do that?
By inviting people of all ages to help us bring
innovative programs & practices to vulnerable children AND by expanding the pool of potential resources for our kids in care.

More people engaged = More resources
More resources = More connections
More connections means kids are not “aging out” of foster
care without life-long families & community connections.

Support these unique Treehouse Programs.
Help Re-Envision Foster Care in the Commonwealth!

Big Red Barn Animal Therapy Program at Legacy Farm
It is well documented that animal assisted activities promote healthy relationship building for children who have experienced trauma and loss. Spending time in a barn with certified instructors, parents, social workers and Treehouse staff taking care of animals, learning how to ride a horse and sitting with a bunny in your lap enhance the health and well-being of children whose lives have been impacted by foster care. The Treehouse Foundation has partnered with professionals at Legacy Farm to offer the Big Red Barn Program whenever we have been able to raise money to offer this innovative program to children and families. With your help we can offer it again this summer and fall.

Treehouse-Berkshire East Outdoor Action Project
Berkshire East is known for its winter sports and zip line Canopy Tours.
Research shows that children who have experienced challenging beginnings benefit from gaining mastery over their bodies thru outdoor/sports experiences. Berkshire East offers children living on Treehouse Circle a reduced rate to learn how to ski and snowboard in the winter as well as experiencing zip lining in the spring, summer and fall to build self esteem and competence.

Treehouse Community Garden Project
As we head into our 4th season in the Treehouse Community Garden
Treehouse community members of all ages are led by Hope Guardenier,
experienced garden educator. In addition to caring for the garden itself,
the group is focused on community composting, hosting a weekly Treehouse Farmer’s Market, and creating Treehouse Garden products to sell on Treehouse Circle and throughout the Pioneer Valley.

Treehouse-Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art
Early Literacy Program
This fabulous joint project offers young children experiencing foster care throughout the Pioneer Valley the opportunity to come to Treehouse with their parents and participate in a weekly hands-on Early Literacy Program. Children are welcomed to the Treehouse Community Center, enjoy a healthy snack, listen to a story, spend time exploring art materials, hear a second story and take home a book each week. Kids and parents have given this innovative program facilitated by Treehouse and Eric Carle staff a huge thumbs up. It’s the only project of its kind in the region.

Treehouse-Enchanted Circle Arts & Learning Project
The first year that the Arts & Learning Project launched fifteen 5th – 9th graders living at Treehouse were inspired and motivated to learn through the arts – drama, photography, poetry, music and more. The dynamic Enchanted Circle Theatre staff facilitated this amazing adventure along with Treehouse staff and elders. This year, we partnered with Hampshire Educational Collaborative to take the Arts & Learning Project over to the White Brook Middle School’s After School Program.

Treehouse Hear Our Voices Project
Empowering young women, their mothers and female elders through
a customized Holyoke Rows program last fall was very exciting to witness
and be a part of. Elders teaching younger women how to fasten into their boats, showing them rowing techniques, and seeing mother/daughter teams learning together is very inspirational. With your help, we look forward to continuing this Connecticut River journey during the spring, summer and fall.

Treehouse Suitcase Project
Providing children entering the public foster care system with a suitcase so they don’t have to carry their personal belongings in trash bags is a way of honoring each young person’s life. The Treehouse Suitcase Project is piloting a program with one DCF office to create a replicable model that can be used in DCF offices across the Commonwealth in order to ensure that every newborn, infant, toddler, pre-schooler, elementary aged child, middle schooler and teen is shown that they are cared about by people in their communities. Join with your family, friends and neighbors to collect suitcases. Show our kids experiencing foster care that you find them worthy of your investment!

The Treehouse Foundation is deeply grateful for your interest in learning more about our menu of new Treehouse programs that benefit children experiencing foster care. Thank you for your support!


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