Beaverton foster family thrives at affordable housing community
Local nonprofit Bridge Meadows came up with a solution to the isolation that often comes with fostering and adopting kids: affordable, community living.
Bridge Meadows has created housing communities in Beaverton, Portland and Redmond that each include family homes for those adopting or fostering kids, as well as apartments for residents over 55 who act as mentors and "surrogate grandparents."
The design is centered around forming connections, community and relationships between all residents, regardless of age.
Families living at a Bridge Meadows community must be in the process of adopting or fostering youth and be referred by the state, while elders must be over 55 with a desire to participate in community living. Differing income requirements apply.
Brian and Josie Parker said the Bridge Meadows community in Beaverton was a "godsend" for their family.
The couple have been foster parents for 20 years. They've lived in Beaverton for about four years and started adopting kids of their own in 2016. Now, they have 7-year-old Victor and 4-year-old Kamari.
Brian Parker said fostering was a calling for them, but it can be expensive, time-consuming and sometimes isolating, especially when there aren't other people around that can relate.
"Even though you've put yourself out there to love a kid that you don't know that is gonna hang out and be there with you for the long term, it's hard to engage other people in your friend circle or in your family to take that kind of risk, too," Parker said. "So it becomes isolating that way too, because you'll find that people might pull away a little bit from interacting."
Kids going through the foster system are usually dealing with trauma and other issues, too, Parker said, which brings up another challenge.
Josie Parker said the couple was so excited to be part of Bridge Meadows, and it has turned out to be a big help.
"Bridge Meadows is built on the idea that you have this community of people that are here that not only understand the situation that you're in," Brian Parker said, "but are excited and engaged in helping you and helping the kiddos."
Executive Director Derenda Schubert, who's a clinical psychologist, said she knew a place like Bridge Meadows would help everyone involved thrive.
"I know it gets used over and over again, but it really takes a village. … It's nice to have neighbors who can step in and be supportive and really care about the kids as well," she said.
For the elders especially, Schubert said, living in a community like this gives people a reason to get up in the morning.
Bridge Meadows is hoping to raise money to continue expanding its programs in the state. For this year's National Foster Care Month, its partner, Bank of America, is matching donations to the organization up to $25,000 in May and extended through June.
Bank of America's regional president, Roger Hinshaw, said the nonprofit's innovative approach deserves to be celebrated and recognized.
Brian and Josie Parker, who own a publishing company, have even written and illustrated a children's book as a tribute to their community about a family of "lovable monsters," the Pawsons.
"The books are both kind of a celebration of feeling weird and being an awkward person but still finding a way to share your joy with the people that you care about," Brian Parker said.
Josie Parker said she's always advocating for people to consider fostering, but she said there also needs to be more support out there for foster parents and kids. Her husband agreed.
"I know we're hearing so much right now in the media about people trying to protect unborn children," Brian Parker said. "And as a foster parent, our focus is taking care of these kids from the moment they come into this world … So we always are advocating for there to be more resources put into the foster care system, for foster families, for foster kids."
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