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 and strengths of children, youth, and 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.
For more than 130 years, our organization has been a critical resource for the young people and families in our communities. And from 1887 to today, we have adapted to meet the changing needs of those we serve. That willingness to evolve has guided us through a variety of mergers with other human service organizations in the area – always with a focus on expanding our support to the young people and families of Western Massachusetts. In 2006, we expanded our reach beyond Berkshire County, opening our first office in the Pioneer Valley. In 2019, we updated our name to reflect our expanding reach and vision, becoming 18 Degrees when we had been Berkshire Children and Families. Our new name is inclusive of all the work we do, and reflects the hope we bring to people’s lives.
The story behind 18 Degrees is one of new days and new beginnings – and that’s what our work has been about for over a century.