It has been estimated that of all the children living in foster care in the United States, 556,000 in the year 2000, 16-percent have been placed in five or more homes over the course of their lives. (Frontline, 2003) Sociologist Brenda Krause Eheart was fascinated by this phenomenon: Why did some children spend their entire youth being bounced from one foster home to another? Through ten years of research, Eheart and her colleague Marty Power determined that the reason children were bounced around the foster care system stemmed from the lack of emotional and informational support their foster families were receiving.
Once she had determined what led to the failure of foster home placements, Eheart was determined to address this problem. What would a community look like if it were going to provide foster and adoptive families with the support they needed in order to thrive? It would look like Hope Meadows, a community founded by Eheart in 1994.
Hope Meadows is a planned inter-generational community containing foster and adoptive parents, children, and senior citizens. Generations of Hope, the parent organization to Hope Meadows, used a million-dollar grant from the State of Illinois to secure a 22-acre housing subdivision on a former military base. The site contained 15 duplexes that have been converted into single family homes, administrative offices, and a community center, and 10 fourplexes that have been renovated into apartments for senior citizens. In Hope Meadows adopted and foster children find parents and a home, grandparents, playmates, and an entire community designed to help them grow up in a secure and nurturing environment.
Hope Meadows’ adoptive parents go through stringent screening, and only 10-percent of all applicants to the program are accepted as parents. These individuals are licensed by the State of Illinois, and they are expected to adopt and keep their foster children. Hope Meadows places as many as four children with each couple and will place up to three children with a single parent. The senior citizens who live in Hope Meadows act as “honorary grandparents” to the children in the community. In exchange for reduced rent on an apartment, “honorary grandparents” volunteer at least six hours per week. Volunteer activities include acting as crossing guards, tutoring, reading aloud to children, and playing cards or board games.
Hope Meadows improves a child’s chance of finding a loving, permanent adoptive home. Children trapped in the state foster care system are almost four time more likely than those at Hope Meadows to stay “in care” until they reach the age of 18. In contrast, the average time to adoption for a child at Hope Meadows is under two years. In addition, Hope Meadows is able to provide children with excellent care for less money than the state foster care system, with care for children in the state system costing about twice what care for the children at Hope Meadows costs.
Hope Meadows has also developed an innovative method of funding adoptive families. In Hope Meadows, one parent in each family receives an annual salary of $19,000 in order to stay home and nurture their adopted children. In addition to the financial support families receive, Hope Meadows provides residents with support from a therapist who is on site 24 hours a day, seven days a week. At present some 10 families, 50 children and 45 senior citizens make up the Hope Meadows community.
Contact Group: Generations of Hope
Address: 1530 Fairway Drive
Rantoul, IL 61866
Web site: www.generationsofhope.org