HOW THE KEY PROGRAM STARTED
Key, a tax-exempt charity, was founded in 1974 in response
to Massachusetts' closing its so called "training
schools" for juveniles. In the mid-1800's, Massachusetts
started the first reform school in the nation for troubled
youth. Ideally, these schools were to provide nurturing,
academic and vocational training, and rehabilitation.
By the late 1960's a series of exposés revealed
that these reform schools often brutalized young people
and had become "schools of crime". Attempts
to improve these schools failed and resulted in their
closing in the early 1970's. Known as de-institutionalization,
the outgrowth of these closings was the creation of
the Department of Youth Services (DYS) which decided
to contract for alternatives to reform schools.
Two college students, Bill and Scott Wolfe, had been
organizing volunteers to help improve the reform schools.
Upon their closing, DYS contracted with the non-profit
organization the Wolfe brothers had created which in
its early years was the Community Advancement Program
(in 1977, our name changed to The Key Program, Inc.).
Our first program in 1974 was called Outreach Services
which soon added a component called Tracking. Over the
years, in response to identified gaps in services to
youth and families involved with the juvenile justice,
child welfare, mental health and educational systems,
we added residential programs, out-patient mental health
services, shelter programs, community re-entry programs
and educational services. Today we serve over 600 youth
and families each day.