Berkshire Children & Families program for teen mothers evolves as need changes

PITTSFIELD — A program that helps young mothers is evolving, following a decline in teen pregnancy in Berkshire County.

Come fall, Redfield House, a program of Berkshire Children & Families, will no longer have a staff member on standby 24/7 at the house.

Colleen Holmes, the agency's president and CEO, said that kind of staffing is almost "obsolete," since program over the past five years has emphasized connecting its clients with community resources outside of the house.

"It's really just a shift in how we're providing the support," she said.

Redfield House will also open its doors to prospective tenants from the broader community after the transition this September.

It will remain affordable housing and offers 24 apartments. For information about renting, call Berkshire Housing Services at 413-499-1630, ext. 105.

Redfield House, located in Pittsfield's former Redfield School at 48 Elizabeth St. just south of downtown, will continue providing support services, including childcare. Women living there will have the option to remain.

"These are not young teens anymore," Holmes said. "This is just a different way of how we are strengthening families and how we are helping them connect to the community."

Redfield House was established in the 1990s in partnership with the Berkshire Housing Development Corp. and Berkshire Fund as affordable housing with in-house services for pregnant and parenting young women ages 16-24.

In 1995, a Teen Living Program began at the house for younger pregnant and parenting teens. Over time, the types of support needed changed a drop in teen pregnancy rates in the county. Funding for the Teen Living Program was discontinued in 2013.

The birth rate among teenagers in Berkshire County fell by more than half between 2009 and 2014, The Eagle has reported.

"What is relevant as an adult is not the same as what was relevant for a teen," Holmes said. "As folks are older, the level of intensity of support they need is different."

Today, the program offers support and housing for mothers who are at least 18, helping them identify goals and build life skills.

Besides childcare, Redfield House will continue offering groups on parenting and other topics.

The agency will open these groups to the public.

"Our intention is always to be open and inclusive," Holmes said.

Patricia LeBoeuf can be reached at, at @BE_pleboeuf on Twitter and 413-496-6247.


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