Scott Hart, Executive Director of Mooseheart Child City & School, explains why Mooseheart is such a special place.
What is Mooseheart?
Mooseheart is both a community and a school, and it cares for children whose families are unable, for whatever reason, to do so. We provide the nurturing home, spiritual development and solid education they need to reach their full potential. Mooseheart, located on a 1,000-acre campus 38 miles west of Chicago, is a special place where children and teens in need receive the resources, guidance and gentle-but-consistent discipline they need to achieve that potential.
Why is Mooseheart so important for grandparents?
In the United States, the 2000 census found that nearly 4.5 million children were in their grandparents’ care, a 30 percent increase from 1990. Our society’s grandparents are increasingly faced with the necessity of raising their grandchildren, and they should know they don’t necessarily need to do it alone.
As the number of grandparents raising grandchildren continues to grow, grandparents are looking for resources they can access. For those grandparents who aren’t physically, mentally or financially capable of raising their grandchildren, Mooseheart offers a caring, responsible option to having the children enter a state foster care system. Grandparents can maintain guardianship and ongoing contact with their grandchildren while the children live and go to school at Mooseheart.
Who are the children who live at Mooseheart?
The children come from all across the U.S. and Canada and represent all racial and socioeconomic backgrounds. Some have lost one or both parents; others were living in adverse environments not conducive to healthy growth and development. For example, Joy (14), James (12), John (11) and Jacob (10) Ranum arrived at Mooseheart in January 2007 from San Jose, Calif.
For the past nine years their paternal grandmother, Rachel Bicker, had been raising the children on her own. Although Rachel, at 82, loves her grandchildren deeply, increasingly it was a struggle to provide daily care. She found she could no longer cope with their schedules and was almost too tired to cook meals. Today the children are thriving at Mooseheart and can visit and talk with their grandmother as often as they’d like.
Krystal Ellsworth is a 15-year-old who was accepted into Mooseheart from Texas in August 2002. Her maternal grandparents adopted her at the age of 13 months, after Krystal’s mother no longer wanted to care for her. Krystal’s grandfather was in a serious car accident in 1997, which left him neurologically impaired. The stress in the home from her grandfather’s mental health issues prompted her grandmother to look for a safe and more nurturing environment for Krystal.
Krystal is an A student in school, enjoys being a part of Mooseheart’s athletic teams, is involved in 4-H and NJROTC, volunteers at a local nursing home once a month and is a standout musician in the Mooseheart band.
What is it like for children who live there?
There are currently 225 children living at Mooseheart. Children live in one of 30 residences designed like a spacious single-family home. Each Mooseheart family consists of “family teachers,” often a husband and wife, and 6 to 12 children or teens. The family teachers are responsible for caring for the children and meeting day-to-day needs. They also are responsible for teaching social- and life skills and serving as role models in their spiritual and moral development.
Who supports Mooseheart?
Mooseheart is privately funded, mostly by the wonderful men and women members of the Moose fraternal organization. In fact, many members say they joined because of the organization’s commitment to supporting Mooseheart. The Moose is an international membership organization of nearly 1.3 million men and women dedicated to caring for young and old, bringing communities closer together and celebrating life. Members work hard to raise money to support both Mooseheart and the fraternity’s retirement community in north Florida, Moosehaven.
What happens to students after they graduate?
The Moose fraternity’s support of Mooseheart students does not end at high school graduation. A generous financial aid program provides college scholarships for students meeting academic criteria. More than 80 percent of Mooseheart graduates do go on to college, attending universities throughout the nation.
Mooseheart students also learn a vocation in addition to earning an academic diploma. Vocations include business, early childhood education, computer science, cosmetology and health occupations. Some students go right to work after high school. Others join the United States military; students in grades 9 through 12 are members of the NJROTC unit.
How do grandparents or others reach you?
They’re welcome to call our admissions office at 630-906-3631 or visit online at www.mooseheart.org . Those who are interested in learning about the Moose organization may call 630-966-2229 or visit the Web site www.mooseintl.org .
Originally published in GRAND Magazine Issue 19