The Caring Force Blog July 2024 Workforce Hero: Judy Hanley

The Caring Force is delighted to announce Judy Hanley as our July TCF Workforce Hero Spotlight honoree. Judy worked at 18 Degrees for over 25 years and works diligently on keeping families connected to the community with work done through home visitation.

Tell us about your background.  How did you decide to pursue a career in human services?

My name is Judy Hanley. I grew up in Brookline, MA, a suburb of Boston. When I was in 5th grade, my mother went back to work. My mother worked for the Brookline Public School system and worked with the Director of the METCO program; a program designed to bring inner city children from Boston into the suburbs with the hope that they would get a better education. I was shocked at the differences between cities and towns surrounding Boston, and how the educational system operated differently from town to town. It wasn’t until I was older that I realized the discrepancies seemed to be based on the wealth of the city or town. The socioeconomics of families determine who would get a better education. I thought how sad that is for children.

As I headed to college, I knew I wanted to be involved in making changes in the world. I studied sociology/psychology. As a senior in college, I was selected to be part of a start-up program in Lawrence, MA, assisting young Hispanic mothers in getting their education and learning English if needed, and helping to connect them to medical services and other resources for themselves and their children.

After college, I worked as a social worker in a small private nursing home. Three months later, I was hired by an outpatient alcohol program connected to The Waltham Hospital. I worked there for five years, learning the ins and outs of substance abuse. Knowing how and why addicts use was very eye-opening. To this day, I still use what I learned about substance abuse.

In 1991, after moving to the Berkshires with my husband and 3 children, I decided I was ready to go back to work.

In 1991, I was hired by Berkshire Children and Families. I started as a Case Manager at The Redfield House, a living program for young mothers and their children. There were 2 separate programs. One was a program created by the Department of Families and Children, and they monitored the program very closely. This program was for pregnant and parenting mothers ages 13 to 20. These women were required to be in school working on their high school diploma’s, or their GED’s. After picking up their children from childcare, they were expected to make a nutritious dinner, then attend groups focusing on skill development. We had a House Mother, who also lived in the building, and she provided support to the moms all night, if necessary.

The other program was also for young mothers, ages 18 to 25. These women were tenants of Berkshire Housing, but also required to attend the groups offered by staff.

I was eventually promoted to Program Director. In this role, I was able to meet with the young women individually and find out what they were hoping to achieve while they lived at Redfield House. I met some amazing women. Women who grew up on the street; women who had been beaten and raped and escaped from sex trafficking. Some of the women had been adopted and were looking for their biological parents.   Women who were raised in the system (DCF), women who had been thrown out of their homes because of their pregnancy.

Some of the women were close to their parents and siblings, just looking for their independence.

These women were from all walks of life; rich, poor and everything in between.

I can’t begin to tell you how much I learned from these mothers; resilience, love, determination and so much more. I was so lucky to have the opportunity to meet these families. I still stay in touch with many of them.  They love to tell me how their life is going, what their children are doing and where they are working. They tell me how the program and staff were there for them in their darkest moments.

The Redfield House closed a few years ago. It was a sad day for many of us. Luckily, I was able to move into a new position, allowing me to continue working with families. I meet with families on a weekly basis and continue to refer them to local resources. We do field trips to splash pads, Hancock Shaker Village and the Museum. Trips to the supermarket or Walmart also happen.

Berkshire Children and Families became 18 Degrees, and I became a member of the Family Support Workers team. 18 Degrees has a lot of different programs, and I’m happy to be part of them.

Lots of changes, but I still get to connect with families in the community every day. I’m very lucky.

2. Do you have a question for the next person we spotlight?

How do you keep your boundaries when working with families?

Thank you so much to Judy and all of our wonderful human services workers who bring joy and passion to work every day! We are so thankful for your efforts and for making the Commonwealth a better place.

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