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New Life Village near Tampa offers new homes for foster children, new purpose for seniors

As the only intergenerational residential model in the state of Florida to do what they do, New Life Village in Palm River, just east of Tampa, is working to reduce the number of children in foster care. ‘welcome for over a year.

Founded in 2012, New Life Village is helping solve two of the issues plaguing the Tampa Bay area: affordable housing and a foster care crisis.

With their mission being to provide a “supportive environment, within an intergenerational community for children in need of a safe, stable and permanent family experience”, the association’s leadership works on their 12-acre campus which is currently about 1/3 developed.

Earlier in September, the construction of two new buildings that will house 16 families in about a year, increasing the village from around 100 to 170. The new buildings will add to the 32 already existing townhouses, plus a community garden. , paddling pool, swimming pool, playground and football field. Plans further are preliminary, but now include a multi-purpose program building and one-bedroom living spaces for the elderly.

“The community and its program are focused on healing children,” says Mariah Hayden, Executive Director of New Life Village. “We help them overcome their trauma and gain coping mechanisms.”

Seniors living in the Village are all 55 and over and are here for an intentional retirement. They serve as surrogate grandparents, guardians and mentors.

“It’s basically the village elders in the saying ‘it takes a village to raise a child,’” says Hayden.

Being in New Life Village, she explains, prevents these abandoned, abused and neglected children, who usually do not live with their birth parents, from entering the foster care system. This creates a safe place where they can call “home” with their foster family without being stigmatized for being adopted.

The program also works to address the negative outcomes associated with foster care systems, such as low education / graduation rates, homelessness, teenage pregnancy, incarceration, mental health problems and unemployment.

In a survey collected from residents in June 2020, 88% of children had improved their grades since moving in, 100% of children thought they were an important part of the village family, 99% of seniors thought they were leading a determined and meaningful life-in-the-Village project, and 91% of caregivers were convinced that the Village’s family environment was safe. Breaking the cycle of many of the main issues in the foster care system, New Life Village has a positive impact on a variety of issues associated with traditional foster care: a lack of support from loved ones. caregivers, a shortage of foster parents, the impact of trauma and the lack of affordable housing.

“The longer children are placed in foster care, the more they have a physical likelihood of very negative and traumatic outcomes,” says Hayden.

The average household change per child is around three placements per year. Whenever this happens, this child not only loses a sense of family and stability, but is again traumatized by thinking that no one wants them and that he has nowhere to go.

“Children have a need and seniors have a need. Children and the elderly provide for everyone’s needs, so it’s a beautiful yin and yang relationship that provides psychological and health outcomes for both groups.

Of course, there are going to be problems that arise from mixing the generations. “If we go to our grandparents, no matter who we are, no matter how old we are, there’s a good chance they won’t understand some aspect of our life,” says Hayden. “You have the standard and expectations of each generation, and each generation looks at the other generation through that lens. “

From phone etiquette to good manners and work ethics, kids today hold very different values ​​than their elders, she says.

“Our elders come from a generation where you stayed married all your life, you chose a career and it was your career your entire life. The older generation is really attached to the idea that you start a job and move up the ranks. You stay a long time, you respect your elders no matter what, and that’s what the job looks like to them. The younger generation is completely on the other side of that spectrum, ”says Hayden.

The challenges caused by technological innovations and changes in the workplace will never go away.

“Our grandparents had the same problems with their grandparents and so on. … It’s just that things change and that will always be represented in the generations.

What is unique is how a versatile pace of life is based on societal manners.

“Our generation, and I in particular, are still going a million kilometers an hour. I’m still multitasking and do 25 things at a time. It is a blessing and a curse. They are [seniors] not like that, so when they come to the clubhouse and we see them in the community, they stop, take a break and have intentional, very present conversations with you, ”says Hayden. “It’s such a great way to remember to be there, to listen to people and to talk. … It shows us that we have to slow down and be present with each other because life is short.

Living in this type of community is also good for older people, giving them purpose and keeping them healthy and active while participating in the various activities offered by New Life Village. It is not a new concept; the United States is just late. For years, Europe has designed similar communities by incorporating assisted living facilities with college students, bringing in the elderly to daycare centers, etc.

To better understand the need, consider these statistics listed on the New Life Village website:

  • Florida is 3rd in the United States, behind California and Texas with 22,781 foster children;
  • Hillsborough County is # 1 and Pinellas County # 2 in Florida for the number of children in foster care;
  • Since January 2020:
    – 2,366 children were in foster care in Hillsborough County
    – 2,484 children were in foster care in Pinellas and Pasco counties

By going to the Take Action tab on the New Life Village website, you can help them take it one step closer to the end of their construction campaign or make a donation. For example, $ 25 per month allows a senior to participate in their on-site wellness program year-round, allowing them to choose from weekly yoga classes, tai chi classes, trips to the theater, etc.

Being a part of this community has given Hayden the chance to watch these children grow, grow stronger, heal, and gain confidence in who they are.

“From a holistic perspective, it’s just great because it provides a holistic healing context for the elderly and families of children,” says Hayden.

It’s a beautiful blend of culture and perspectives that come with time and age, together in one safe place. In a house.

For more information, see their website, Facebook page, and watch their story on CBN.


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Rodney N.

The author Rodney N.