From the Treehouse Blog

Be Part of Something Special!

Posted by Judy Cockerton at Mar 06, 2012 12:00 AM

Snow is on the ground. Spring is in the air. The Treehouse Community Garden is a topic of conversation. People are walking their dogs, checking out new home construction and welcoming our wonderful new neighbors, who have just moved into their stunning new energy efficient home.

This is our sixth spring on Treehouse Circle. Since we opened in 2006, over 100 people, ranging in age from 3 – 93, have come together to invest in one another’s health and well-being.

The mission of the Treehouse Foundation is to inspire, implement and support innovative practices which ensure that children and youth placed in foster care find their places in loving, connected life-long family relationships and supportive communities that help them lead fulfilling and productive lives. The Treehouse Community does just that and we are interested in sharing the Treehouse Approach with others across the nation.

In 2003, we collaborated with Beacon Communities and Berkshire Children & Families, our stellar housing and child welfare partners, to build a multi-generational neighborhood where families who are adopting children from the public foster care system live with caring neighbors of all ages. We designed and built a Hub of Innovation; a learning community where we are finding out what it takes to help a youngster who has experienced foster care thrive and soar.

We started designing a compelling menu of engagement options to give Americans exciting new ways to become resources to children and youth; both those living on Treehouse Circle with their permanent families and those living throughout the region. We became a catalyst for collaborative social change. We planted seeds for the Re-Envisioning Foster Care in America Initiative.

Treehouse has become a Hub of Innovation for Foster Care Adoption by forming innovation partnerships with colleges, universities, non-profits, businesses, educators, mental health providers, philanthropists, psychologists and child welfare professionals. We thoroughly enjoy collaborating with folks who think out-of-the foster care box. Visionaries who want to change the foster care narrative in this country. Citizens who want to make it possible for children and youth whose lives have been impacted by foster care to connect to people who will care for them and about them forever.

While all of this dynamic social change was afoot, we began to plan Phase Two of the Treehouse Community with our partners : Home Ownership. We wanted to invite more people to help us Re-Envision Foster Care in America and expand the Treehouse Community model to include both rental and home ownership opportunities.

Beacon Communities developed energy efficient home designs. They began building two, three and four bedroom homes that are designed to both reflect the historical vernacular of the Pioneer Valley as well as the environment. These ultra-low energy homes are designed to use 60% less energy than comparably sized new-construction homes. If an owner decides to incorporate solar electric panels on the roof, the homes are designed to perform at a “net-zero” energy usage, which means that on an annual basis, the energy created will be close to or exceed the energy needs.

Home ownership opportunities abound! Singles, couples, young families, seasoned families and folks who are downsizing have all expressed an interest in purchasing a home on Treehouse Circle. Prospective home buyers can choose from:

  • 9 thoughtfully planned building sites
  • 7 home designs
  • 2, 3 & 4 bedroom designs ranging from 1,500 – 2,365 sq. ft

Come live the Treehouse mission and vision! Be part of something that is truly special. Help us make sure that every child is rooted in family and community.

Call Dave Ryan @ 413. 977. 9184 for home ownership information today!

Goodness in the Air

Posted by Judy Cockerton at Feb 27, 2012 12:00 AM
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I woke up this morning with a huge smile on my face. I was dreaming of Camp To Belong MA. Looking at the calendar it dawned on me – in six months we will be in the Berkshires celebrating our 8th season of CTB MA. Campers and counselors will truly be jumping off the water trampoline, riding the banana boats, swimming, boating and playing volleyball down by the waterfront. I will be sitting in my green chair down on the dock with friends and family, drinking in all of the action, thinking “Life is Good!”

Camp To Belong MA is a wonderful summer program sponsored by Sibling Connections, the only non-profit organization in the Commonwealth that is dedicated to providing sisters and brothers who have been separated when placed in foster care with year-round events and opportunities to stay connected.

For the past eight summers we have invited siblings from across the state to join us for a week at camp. 50+ trained volunteer counselors join the kids and spend approximately 120 consecutive hours together creating joyous shared memories – memories that will last a lifetime.

When asked what they love best about CTB MA, campers typically say, “Eating breakfast, lunch and dinner with my sisters and brothers.”, “Spending the whole day with my sister/brother!”, “Riding horses with my siblings!” “Getting to be with my family for a whole week!” “All of the memories in my Camp To Belong MA scrapbook!”

During the week, boys sleep in cabins on one side of camp, girls on the other. In the morning they wake up, get dressed and saunter over to the Dining Hall with their counselors to join their Family Group. Each Family Group is composed of 2-3 sibling groups and a cadre of counselors. Together they move through the day, sampling the day’s offerings, guided by the counselors’ talent, energy, expertise and wisdom.

It’s a diverse and dedicated group of caring community members, eager to do what’s right for our children and youth who have been placed in foster care.

Counselors range in age from 21 – 63 and come from all walks of life: accounting, child welfare, education, health care, journalism, mental health. We have doctors, lawyers, nurses and award winning photojournalists. Foster care alumni and foster/adoptive parents. It’s a diverse and dedicated group of caring community members, eager to do what’s right for our children and youth who have been placed in foster care. As campers swim, ride horses, bake, make each other sibling pillows, play basketball, scale the climbing wall and fly through the air on a flying trapeze, their counselors are by their side.

When asked what they like best about volunteering at Camp To Belong MA, counselors often say they love giving the kids the opportunity to be together and celebrate their sibling relationship. They enjoy being part of an organization that is doing the right thing for siblings experiencing foster care. They can’t imagine being separated from their own sisters and brothers and want to do everything they can to support the development of healthy life-long connections for their campers.

The majority of CTB MA counselors are veterans who come back year after year. Those who live in Massachusetts often volunteer to support the year-round sibling connection initiative sponsored by Sibling Connections. One veteran counselor, an outstanding social worker who lives and works in Connecticut, volunteers her time and talent year-round. She has this to say about her camp memories: “ As brothers and sisters join a group of volunteers at the start of each season of CTB MA, I experience a wave of emotions. When the first sibling gets off of the bus, I know for the next five days I will be a part of something greater than myself. When I see the first sibling group give their hugs to one another, I know that I will be inspired with each moment that passes. When I see the last camp fire of the season come to a close, I know that I have been privileged to be a member of the Camp To Belong family.”

I agree. Looking back over the past 7 years of Camp To Belong MA, the salient take-away for me is the feeling of goodness that permeates the air. The kids are able to look around and know that everyone understands their life circumstances. They are respected, valued, cared about, honored and supported by a community of wonderful people who repeatedly send them the messages:

“You are worthy!”
“We care about you!”
“We love spending time with you!”
“You deserve goodness and opportunity!”

As we set out to raise $100,000 for our 8th season of Camp To Belong MA, we thank the generous individuals, philanthropists and foundations who find CTB MA worthy of their financial support. Without you and our outstanding cadre of volunteers this program would not be possible.

Thank you for investing in the lives of children and youth placed in foster care. Thank you for investing in stellar programming. Thank you for investing in foster care innovation.

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