Way of Life
Genesis is a new concept for Washington, DC, but Hope Meadows, the model on which it’s based, has been around for more than 20 years. It’s a way of life that makes a difference in DC.
A simple idea
Generations of Hope began with a simple idea: to enfold vulnerable children who had become trapped in the foster care system into permanent, nurturing families and neighborhoods.
In 1994, the process of realizing and refining this idea was launched with the creation of the first intentional, intergenerational neighborhood of its kind, Hope Meadows, in Rantoul, Illinois. At Hope Meadows, older adults commit to providing indispensable support to vulnerable children and their adoptive families who, in turn, play a crucial role in promoting the well-being of the elders as they age.
In the years since its opening, Hope Meadows has achieved genuine success in providing permanent, loving homes for children and youth who would otherwise remain in foster care. More than 85% of the children who come to Hope Meadows are adopted and 100% of them graduate from high school. An average of five "close and enduring relationships" in which there is direct care and reciprocal support are developed between each former foster child and the community's seniors who serve as Hope “grandparents.”
Over time, this "simple idea" and the visionary behind it, Dr. Brenda Eheart, have received broad acclaim, earning attention from national media (ABC News, The New York Times, The Oprah Winfrey Show), funding and awards from major foundations (W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Heinz Family Foundation) and recognition from government, academic and non-profit sectors (2011 White House "Champion of Change," Harvard University Ash Institute Innovations in American Government, AARP Inspire Award).
Expanding Innovation and Impact
Twenty years later, the unlikely combination of seniors, adoptive families and former foster children and youth first assembled at Hope Meadows has inspired the development of similar intergenerational neighborhoods across the country. Communities such as Bridge Meadows in Portland, Oregon; Treehouse in Easthampton, Massachusetts; and New Life Village in Tampa, Florida, are helping spur innovation and broadening the impact of intentional neighboring across the United States. And they're doing it by leveraging the power of everyday people to foster meaning, purpose, and lasting relationships across the generations.
Pioneered in Illinois. Unmistakably DC.
Today, Generations of Hope is working on a range of new initiatives that will adapt the model pioneered at Hope Meadows to serve the needs of other vulnerable groups, including developmentally disabled adults, youth exiting the juvenile justice and foster care systems, and veterans suffering from traumatic brain injury, in communities across the nation.
As the first initiative of its kind to call the District home, Genesis embodies the spirit of this city and the diverse individuals it will serve. Its residents are the real innovators, as they come together to solve problems, support one another, and determine the character and qualities that will define their community.
Like Hope Meadows, Genesis represents a new way of thinking, one that shifts the focus on receiving care and support from professional service providers back to the neighborhood, creating a way of life where everyone, including vulnerable people, can contribute and succeed.
It puts into action something we can all agree on: that people of all ages, abilities and backgrounds, have value and a role to play in building stronger, more caring communities.
For more information about the way of life at Genesis, visit ghdc.generationsofhope.org
An inspiring model
Other intergenerational communities similar to Genesis already exist around the country. The first one, Hope Meadows in Illinois, recently celebrated its 20th anniversary. Genesis is the first community in DC to be based on the Generations of Hope "Intentional Neighboring" model pioneered at Hope Meadows.
Photo credit: Alex Harris