Training. Research. Advocacy.

Who We Are

We are a training, research, and advocacy organization which found its genesis on the campuses of Hope Unlimited for Children, an orphan-care organization in Brazil. It is our mission—and our passion—to transform the lives of high-risk orphans and vulnerable children by using evidence-driven methodologies to improve the quality of care at residential facilities and group homes. We advocate for these care models as the settings that provide the best opportunity for high-risk orphans and vulnerable children to become well-adjusted, self-sufficient, and productive members of their larger communities. It is our experience that sharing time-tested and research-proven protocols and methodologies enable care practitioners for high-risk OVC to provide the very best care for these children.

We believe every child should be raised in a supportive and loving family, and every community should fight to ensure that this is the reality for as many children as possible. We recognize that, for a variety of reasons, some children will grow up in alternative care. We assert that these children should be raised in a setting that closely approximates a supportive and loving family environment.



Training: Because we need to stop re-inventing the wheel

Research: Because evaluation is the foundation of program improvement

Advocacy: Because we believe In residential care

Core Values

  1. We believe every child should be raised in a loving and supportive family.
  2. We affirm excellent residential care as the best opportunity of successful community reintegration for high-risk OVC.
  3. We believe excellent residential programs must prepare children for successful independent adulthood.
  4. We believe best practices should be encouraged in every residential care setting.
  5. We are committed to building a supportive community among OVC care practitioners.
  6. We value and affirm the autonomy of partner programs.

The Collaborative Model

We believe indigenous leadership holds the key for transforming the way orphan care is managed.


Ours is not a top-down implementation. Experience tells us that practitioners often have the answers they need. Instead, Hope Institute helps them articulate those answers and find ways to put them into practice. Our collaborative model assures local buy-in and ownership of the program.

Although we work from a well-developed and comprehensive curriculum, every consultation or training engagement is tailored to the specific needs of the client organization. The same answers don’t work in every culture and in every context. We begin by helping orphan care organizations identify and articulate what success will look like for their graduates. We want them to cover it all: employment, living conditions, integration into communities, church involvement. Whatever success looks like in that place, we want to talk about it. We then use our experience and expertise to help each organization develop goals, programs, and assessments that will prepare their graduates for successful transition into independent living.

Engagement does not stop when we leave a campus. We see ourselves less as trainers than we do as mentors. We walk alongside organizations as they implement their new programming. We help them track graduates and assess effectiveness. Then we help them refine their programming to make sure their graduates hit the benchmarks.


DAVID Z. NOWELL – Executive Director

The big picture guy. David understands how to get there from here. He began to see the need for a place like Hope Institute while at an orphan conference in 2014. He understands how to get from the theoretical to the practical, taking the ideals of orphan care to practical implementation in the field. While serving as president of Hope Unlimited for Children, he observed first-hand the effectiveness of outcome-focused orphan care. David is the author of several books, including Dirty Faith:  Bringing the Love of Christ to the Least of These. A widely recognized speaker, David holds a Ph.D. in historical theology from Baylor University.


MEREDITH NORTON – Program Director

Compassion. And dignity. Meredith is a constant advocate for the rights of orphans and vulnerable children. She believes in the inherent dignity of every child, and insists that those providing care help children chart their own paths. She is also the nuts and bolts person at Hope Institute, giving attention to the details while leading program development and implementation. Meredith has a degree in Political Science from Samford University.


STAN PIERSON – Board Chair






PAUL HUSBY – Board Vice Chair

History and Experience. Paul is the retired CEO of 3M Brazil, with a more than 20-year association with Hope Unlimited for Children, including a two-year volunteer assignment as Site Director of Hope Mountain in Brazil. Paul has great passion for the work of Hope Unlimited for Children because of its proven success, and is an ardent believer in the mission of Hope Institute to multiply that success by training orphan care programs throughout the world. Paul is an advocate for establishing high standards of care and preparing children in residence for successful adult lives. He is co-author of Make Your Business a Lean Business.


CASEY MILLER – Board Secretary



SEAN RUTTER – Board Liaison

The professional and the volunteer. Sean is a partner at the Milwaukee offices of PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC). He brings to Hope Institute a keen understanding of corporate management tempered by a tender heart for orphans. On a volunteer basis, he provides managerial expertise to help Hope Institute navigate the path to changing the world of orphan care.

Our History

Jack Smith, one of the co-founders of Hope Unlimited for Children said it this way:

Let’s hang a sign over the front gate that says, Please copy’.


Founders of Hope Unlimited for Children: (L-R) Philip Smith, David Swoap, Jack Smith

With Hope Institute, that is exactly what we are doing. Our expertise in vocational training and graduate transition programs for high-risk OVC had its genesis in the visionary work of Jack’s son, Philip Smith, and his team at Hope Unlimited for Children in their work with Brazilian streets kids. Work that today – 27 years later – sees over 90% of graduates meaningfully employed and in stable living situations.

We know we can change the outcome for high-risk OVC, because we have done it.

Too often in orphan care, we get caught up in the overwhelming immediate needs of our children. To some degree, that is a good thing. The children have experienced a lifetime of hurt in their few short years, so we want to wrap them up in our love and make sure that the right now, right here, is a good time and place for them. But we must never lose sight of the big picture:  helping our children prepare to live successful, independent lives.

That is both our heritage and our future.