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Twenty-two years ago, I became a foster parent. The experience changed my life. It all started one night when my husband handed me a newspaper article about a five month old baby who had been kidnapped from his crib in a foster home. 
 Our family discussed how we could help children living in foster care. We decided to become a foster family and called the Department of Children & Families. Two little sisters were placed in our home. That experience was a catalyst.

After reading everything I could get my hands on about our child welfare system, speaking with foster parents, birth parents, kids living in foster care, foster care alumni and an array of professionals who serve them, I decided to sell my business and become a full time advocate for the nearly half million young people in foster care.

l met many people already working to change the child welfare system from the inside: legislators and non-profit leaders who were interested in enhancing the lives of kids in foster care, researchers who were documenting the effects of foster care and folks who wanted to change the foster care narrative.

There were only a few philanthropists and foundations funding foster care innovation ("foster care isn’t sexy" is a phrase I heard often.) One reason is that, in 1999, our nation’s children and youth living in foster care were highly stigmatized. The media only paid attention to them when something went wrong.

In addition, it was challenging for concerned people to become involved. It felt as if the children, social workers and families were on the inside of a fortified castle and the drawbridge was locked tight. The only way inside was to become a foster parent or a foster/adoptive parent, which was a lot to ask of most people. That meant millions of caring Americans turned and walked away from kids in their communities who needed them.

In 2002, I established the Treehouse Foundation to re-envision foster care and open the locked drawbridge so Americans of all ages and backgrounds could easily support kids. In 2006, we opened our first Treehouse Community in Massachusetts - an intergenerational neighborhood designed to bring together and provide support to families adopting children from foster care and older Americans who act as β€œhonorary grandparents”.

In 2010, we launched the Re-Envisioning Foster Care in America Movement to inspire many more people to take part in foster care innovation. We are making it easier for people to get involved through our national conferences and soon-to-be-launched podcast called INNOVATE!

Join us! Be the change we so desperately need. Show our nation’s kids experiencing foster care that they matter to our communities. No one should grow up away from love.

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Hello @Judy Cockerton. First I want to commend and than you for your work. While my career was such that serving a foster parent was simply not feasible, I have long supported organizations and individuals who are involved with foster care. My mother grew up in the Montana State Children's home (orphanage) that was closed in the 1970's, so I have been acutely aware my entire life of the trials that children growing up in group homes face. For the past several year, the nonprofit associated with my guest ranch,, has held an event called the Equine Art Extravaganza (see the article about it in our regional newspaper below) that raises money to support the Youth Home in Missoula which provides services to foster families. Since the event is held both onsite and online, we get contributions from across the country. I have a number of ideas of how to work with our online community to support foster children both financially and emotionally. Please let me know if you would be interested in meeting with me to discuss how we might collaborate.

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