After 12 years in Easthampton, Treehouse Foundation expanding east 

  • State Sen. Donald Humason Jr., R-Westfield, left, Treehouse founder and CEO Judy Cockerton, in background, and Treehouse Chief Operating Officer Beth Spong look on as Humason’s constituent services aide John Moriarty, right, adds “MetroWest Boston” in the memo line of an oversized check from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts during an event at Treehouse Foundation in Easthampton on Tuesday. Officials formally announced a $100,000 planning grant to expand and establish another Treehouse intergenerational community in MetroWest Boston. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Treehouse founder and CEO Judy Cockerton, right, is greeted by Linda Dugas, left, during an event held at the intergenerational community in Easthampton on Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2018, to formally announce a $100,000 planning grant from the commonwealth to expand and establish another such community in MetroWest Boston. Dugas is a clinical supervisor for on-site staff at Treehouse. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Treehouse resident Barbara Lockhart, center, and Treehouse Chief Operating Officer Beth Spong, second from right, chat with state Rep. Carmine Gentile, D-Sudbury, during an event held at Treehouse Foundation in Easthampton on Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2018, to formally announce a $100,000 planning grant from the commonwealth to expand and establish another Treehouse intergenerational community in MetroWest Boston. At far left Easthampton Mayor Nicole LaChapelle talks with state Sen. Donald Humason Jr., R-Westfield. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • John Moriarty, left, constituent services aide to state Sen. Donald Humason Jr., R-Westfield, and Yael Petretti, right, volunteer coordinator for Treehouse, photograph Treehouse residents and public officials gathered outside the Treehouse community center in Easthampton on Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2018. Officials formally announced a $100,000 planning grant from the commonwealth to expand and establish another Treehouse intergenerational community in MetroWest Boston. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • State Sen. Donald Humason Jr., R-Westfield, chats with residents of Treehouse in Easthampton on Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2018, during an event held there to formally announce a $100,000 planning grant from the commonwealth to expand and establish another Treehouse intergenerational community in MetroWest Boston. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Easthampton Mayor Nicole LaChapelle, left, and Treehouse founder and CEO Judy Cockerton address an event held at Treehouse Foundation in Easthampton on Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2018, to formally announce a $100,000 planning grant from the commonwealth to expand and establish another Treehouse intergenerational community in MetroWest Boston. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Treehouse founder and CEO Judy Cockerton listens to officials gathered at Treehouse Foundation in Easthampton, Tuesday. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Easthampton Mayor Nicole Lachapelle, left, state Sen. Donald Humason Jr., R-Westfield, Treehouse founder and CEO Judy Cockerton, state Rep. Carmine Gentile, D-Sudbury, and Treehouse COO Beth Spong chat during an event held at Treehouse Foundation in Easthampton on Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2018, to formally announce a $100,000 planning grant from the commonwealth to expand and establish another Treehouse intergenerational community in MetroWest Boston. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • State Rep. Carmine Gentile, D-Sudbury, addresses an event held at Treehouse Foundation in Easthampton on Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2018, to formally announce a $100,000 planning grant from the commonwealth to expand and establish another Treehouse intergenerational community in MetroWest Boston. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Treehouse Chief Operating Officer Beth Spong attends an event held at the intergenerational community in Easthampton on Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2018, where officials formally announced a $100,000 planning grant from the commonwealth to expand and establish a similar community in MetroWest Boston. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Treehouse resident Mary Steele attends an event held at Treehouse Foundation in Easthampton on Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2018, where officials formally announced a $100,000 planning grant from the commonwealth to expand and establish another Treehouse intergenerational community in MetroWest Boston. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

Staff Writer
Published: 10/17/2018 12:00:22 AM

EASTHAMPTON — Judy Cockerton’s long-held vision of reshaping foster care in the United States began in Easthampton, and is now expanding to the Greater Boston Area.

After founding the Treehouse Foundation, Cockerton’s non-profit in 2006 opened a 60-home neighborhood where families with adopted children live alongside retirees in a tight-knit residential area.

On Tuesday, Treehouse community members were joined by local and state officials to celebrate a $100,000 planning grant from the state for a new, intergenerational residential area in Framingham.

The money will help fund planning with project partners, securing a site, and outreach for children, youth, families, and elders, Cockerton said. Easthampton Mayor Nicole LaChapelle, state Sen. Donald Humason, R-Westfield, and state Rep. Carmine Gentile, D-Sudbury, joined in a presentation of a check to Treehouse.

“We are pushing the envelope for housing innovation, child welfare innovation and vital aging innovation,” said Cockerton, Treehouse’s CEO. “Hopefully, we are creating a new norm for how we treat children in foster care, foster adoptive families, and elders.”

The Framingham community will have 15 family townhouses interwoven with nine to 12 apartments for youths — aged 18 to 24 — that have experienced foster care and are transitioning to adulthood. In Easthampton, there are a total of 110 people living in the Treehouse community in 12 homes for adoptive families and 48 cottages for residents 55 and older.

Over the past 12 years, Cockerton said the staff at Treehouse have learned a lot about providing support services for the youths that have left foster care and found permanent homes in their community.

In Easthampton, Treehouse partners with Berkshire Children and Families, a social-service organization, and have staff members on site who provide mental health and parenting support. Treehouse will partner with the social service agency Plummer Youth Promise at its Framingham location.

“We will provide permanent loving families, housing, job and life skill development,” Cockerton said. “This is intentional neighboring; a planned, intergenerational community … It’s one generation helping another.”

Every year, there are 25,000 youths who age out of public foster care alone, putting them at risk of homelessness, incarceration, and teen parenting, according to Cockerton.

The model established at the Easthampton Treehouse can provide those transitioning youths with permanent families and a community that “invests into their hopes, dreams, lives, and future,” Cockerton said.

Treehouse experience

Barbara Lockhart is a retiree who moved into the Treehouse neighborhood three months ago after volunteering at their Community Center for the past four or so years.

She volunteers once a week as part of the after-school program where kids of all grades eat snacks, get help with their homework, and participate in other activities.

“Most of their parents work so volunteers are helping out the parents,” Lockhart said. “This is a safe place to come for the entire afternoon after school. The kids bond, but they’ve known each other for a long time. We, the seniors, get to bond and know them.”

For the past decade, Mary Steele has lived in the Treehouse community, and she said she moved there because she wanted to be able to stay involved with her community.

As a retired school councilor from Oklahoma City, she said she likes “being able to interact with younger people and families that you wouldn’t have the opportunity to do in senior housing.”

“(Cockerton) is very sure about the vision and she always knew this was going to be a model,” said LaChapelle, who was on the Easthampton Zoning Board when Crockerton came forward with the idea.

“Over 12 years ago, Judy was talking about expanding this model as something that is going to change the face of foster care and adoption,” LaChapelle said. “Yourself, and your team, have navigated the unexpected and the expected but the vision never changed.”

Senator Humason commended what he described as Cockerton’s “tenacity and advocacy” to expand the Treehouse model across the state.

“It’s a wonderful program,” Gentile said, noting that the other two state representatives from Framingham are adoptive parents.

Gentile, who served on the Committee on Elder Affairs for two terms, said, “The focus on intergenerational is so important to develop, so a community like Treehouse is just perfect.”

Luis Fieldman can be reached at lfieldman@gazettenet.com




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