The Homestead Community Supports Foster Children
It takes a village to raise a child
By Rachel Kelly
When Sue Braaten and Colleen Bond founded the Homestead Community, there were a lot of different directions from which they drew their inspiration. Sue had adopted a child and Colleen was a foster parent. Both had experience in advocating for children and in nonprofits/community work. Both had an abundance of compassion for children. However, when asked about her inspiration for the founding of the Homestead Community, Sue Braaten thought of one child: “Kayla. I can tell you her name now. Her name was Kayla. She moved 19 times within the system. I just thought to myself, ‘There’s got to be another way.’” It turns out that there is.
When a foster child enters the foster system, they are often moved from one house to the next, their things (if they have any) in a trash bag. Many foster children are dealing with a lot of trauma, understandably so. They usually come from unsavory environments for which they are separated from their parents. As such, they aren't always sure how to deal with those emotions. Their needs are greater than that of the average child; which any parent knows are already extensive. This painful adjustment can often be too much for one family, and so a lot of foster children rotate from home to home. This rotation can add to their trauma, especially when they go back home only to end up again within the foster system. If they are fortunate enough to have an advocate who volunteers their time, as Sue Braaten still does, they have an ally who stays with them as they move from house to house, from social worker to social worker, and from one person to the next. In a world that constantly rotates, in an overloaded system that offers little solace, a child advocate offers a lifeline. A place of rest. Much like the Homestead Community.
The Homestead Community was founded 14 years ago in an effort to provide a sense of home and normalcy for children touched by the foster care system. The result of this effort is the purchase and founding of the JJ House by the Homestead Community. The JJ House has five bedrooms in the Hilltop Neighborhood of Tacoma. The family who lives in the JJ House fosters the children who come under their care with the support of the greater Homestead Community. This means that the Homestead Community is there for the day-to-day struggles of caring for children touched by the foster care system, making the job of fostering easier. It truly does take a village to raise a child, and that is especially true when that child has additional needs. The Homestead Community acts as that village. They are there for the big and little things; from diapers to shoes. Volunteers show up to read stories and celebrate birthdays. There’s holidays and family dinners. There is love. There is stability. There is a home. Nobody has to move 19 times. Nobody has to feel alone.
This means that the family renting the JJ House (at a prorated rate) from the Homestead Community can foster several children at once. This also means that once in the JJ House, a child can leave and then return if their new living situation turns out to not be as permanent as they hoped. As long as the family that lives in the JJ home continues to actively foster children, they are welcome to continue to live there. Thus far, the home has supported two foster families and many children over its seven-year operation. In that time, there have been so many memories and so many lives touched. “There are so many things we are able to do because of the JJ House. We can give a home to foster kids (up to six at a time), keep sibling sets together, have fun themed birthday parties for each of them, Easter egg hunts, and then there’s kiddos unwrapping all the gifts that are donated to them Christmas morning. I think my favorite thing is doing everyday life with these kiddos in a home we wouldn’t be able to have without the homestead,” says Jenny Jones, the foster mom of the JJ House. The Homestead Community is giving the gift of joy through support.
The Homestead Community works with the state of Washington to fill in the gaps. They advocate and consistently connect with children as individuals, listening to their needs and meeting them where they’re at. The Homestead Community also partners with local agencies to provide additional resources, particularly a safe and loving environment for youth touched by foster care. Beyond the JJ House, the Homestead Community also supports the greater foster family and community through advocating for resources.
They do diaper drives, formula drives, provide suitcases for foster children, coordinate donations, gather clothing, and so much more. The Homestead Community really is a village that is focused on founding a foundation of love. As resources become available, the Homestead hopes to found many more houses.
For more information, or to donate to their cause, please visit HomesteadCommunity.org.