Who We Are

18 Degrees is where the sun stands just below the horizon at daybreak. It’s more dark than light in that moment, and hard to see the way forward. At 18 Degrees – formerly Berkshire Children and Families – it’s our mission and privilege to meet people at that point, with the promise that for them, for all of us, the light will grow from the start of each new day.

18 Degrees promotes the well-being of children and youth, and the strength of families to build better communities in Western Massachusetts. We provide education, parenting skills and support, prevention and intervention, advocacy, and life skills across a spectrum of programs serving children, young people, individuals and families in four areas: early education and care; foster care and adoption; child and family well-being; youth and community development.

Our approach with folks is to start with questions about their goals – their dreams. Our work is to guide them to the resources, skills, and support that will help them reach their goals.  This is not a typical conversation for social service agencies, but it is one that is central to our mission of Every child in a family. Every family in a community. Focusing on hopes and dreams helps those we serve to see that new beginnings are possible.

This past year gave me three big reasons to be one proud and grateful CEO: our people-driven services, mission-driven staff, and strategy-driven growth. Thanks to staff, our board members, donors, partners, and committees, we leapt forward in expanding services to underserved populations;  advancing financial sustainability; developing staff; using data and launching an agency brand that unites our programs and celebrates our mission.

Our new name, 18 Degrees, is the position of the sun just below the horizon at daybreak. 18 Degrees signifies the new beginnings, opportunity, fresh promise, and second chances central to our mission of every child in a family, every family in a community. Amongst social services agencies, 18 Degrees is an odd name, which doesn’t fit in. That is intentional. The people we serve are often made to feel like they don’t fit in. With our new name, we stand out right alongside hundreds of children, youth, individuals, and families who are overcoming the odds, and shaping their lives for the better.

I couldn’t ask for a better seat from which to witness all those bright new beginnings.

With profound thanks to our many supporters,


Colleen Holmes
President and CEO

History

With more than 130 years as a human-service agency, 18 Degrees is very familiar with the shifting challenges facing families and people in Western Massachusetts.  In our beginning in 1887, the Union for Home Work, as we were named at the time, was formed by local communities of faith coming together in order to “help men to help themselves.” This coming together is still a cornerstone of our work – we believe that collectively we are stronger than any one of us.  We still believe that if people are given support, guidance, and appropriate resources, they can achieve not just sustainability, but joy.

Our work began with people coming together to help their neighbors, and we continue to partner with others and reach out in a way that is respectful, welcoming, and inclusive.