Our History - About The Key Program Inc.

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Our History

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 called the Community Advancement Program. In 1977, our name changed to The Key Program, Inc.

Our first program in 1974, an intensive home-based model, 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 850 youth and families each day throughout Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

To learn more history about Key and changes in the Massachusetts juvenile justice and child welfare system over the years, click here.