Brenda Krause Eheart, a University of Illinois professor of sociology, together with her colleague Martha Bauman Power, spent much of the 1980s researching what happened to “unadoptable” children and adolescents who spend their entire youth being bounced from one foster home to another.
For nearly two years, Eheart and a group of like-minded friends developed a vision for an entire community built around these children. Their dream was to create a place where ‘unadoptable’ children would be adopted by caring parents who would themselves be supported by a small staff, as well as backup adult guardians to provide relief from the stress of dealing with extremely troubled or ill children.
Their research was the driving force behind Generations of Hope (a 501(c)3 non-profit corporation) and Hope Meadows, its first program site, which opened in 1994. Hope’s mission is deceptively simple: to create a diverse intergenerational neighborhood to support families of adopted foster children.
In direct contrast with traditional foster-care programs, Generations of Hope through its work, demonstrated that through community a village becomes a place where adoptive families can get the support and information they need, children can finally find a place to call home, and elders find real purpose and meaning in their everyday lives.
Hope Meadows was the first example of what we now refer to as an “intentional neighboring” initiative. This approach puts into action the belief that ordinary people of all ages and abilities can be assets in addressing the difficult challenges facing various vulnerable groups. It is specifically designed to bring people together to form bonds of friendship and, over time, a culture of neighborliness — of kindness, helpfulness, generosity, and consideration.
In 2006, with support from The W. K. Kellogg Foundation, Generations of Hope began working to accelerate the nationwide development of neighborhoods based on the intentional neighboring concept. In addition to the challenge of supporting families who adopt children from the foster care system, the model is being adapted to other groups such as Wounded Warriors, vulnerable young mothers and their children, and adults with developmental disabilities.
Our vision is to enhance the lives of vulnerable populations by tapping the transformative power of intergenerational community living. We do not fund or build new communities. Instead, we encourage the widespread adoption of innovative models of intergenerational living through an open exchange of ideas, and the adaptation and replication of intentional neighboring.