August 25, 2017

A pair of friends, practicing piano. Credit: Judy Cockerton / Treehouse Village Foundation

*This piece was updated on Aug. 24, 2017.

Our foster care system isn’t in great shape. Kids in the system are more likely to drop out of school, have higher rates of teen pregnancy, and are less likely to go to college. But, not in Treehouse Village

Treehouse is a community of 60 houses: 40 of them for elders, and 20 of them for families with foster kids. Ninety-nine percent of their kids have graduated from high school. And 100 percent of their graduates have gone on to either college or vocational school. 

We traveled to Northampton, Massachusetts, to learn how one woman rebuilt foster care from the ground up. 

Three Things to Know:

  • The elders range from age 58 to 95, and most of them are women. Though they don’t have a formal role in the community, most of them help with babysitting, transportation, and tea time. They often become honorary grandparents. 
  • Judy Cockerton, the founder of Treehouse, started the village after adopting her own daughter from foster care 18 years ago. “I knew the need for foster-adoptive parents to not be isolated,” she says. “When you’re in isolation you fail.” 
  • Treehouse has social workers on staff and helps families access whatever services they might need. But, for Cockerton, the most important part of the village is the structure and stability it provides. “Making sure that they have a steady, stable home life… and they’re not bouncing from home to home,” can make an enormous difference in a child’s life. 

More Reading:

Massachusetts, Judy Cockerton, foster care, Culture, children, Kara Miller

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