About us

Our History

In 2002, Judy Cockerton established the Treehouse Foundation. As a foster/adoptive parent, educator, and social entrepreneur she saw the tremendous need for new ways to support the success of children who have been through the child welfare system.

How it started

It started with Judy becoming a foster parent to two little girls and realizing that resources were scarce, if nonexistent. Where were all the people, programs, innovation and support for families fostering and adopting children from child welfare?


Creating a community

Faced with the lack of resources , Judy was inspired to begin planning an intentional, intergenerational neighborhood dedicated to helping foster/adoptive families. A team of partners was formed, a location was found, plans were drawn up, and Treehouse Easthampton opened to residents in 2006.

Growing into a movement

The Treehouse team recognized that child welfare reform was suffering from the lack of the wisdom and leadership of those who had directly experienced foster care. In 2010 Treehouse began the ReEnvisioning Foster Care movement to make the dialog surrounding foster care and child welfare smarter and more productive.

The Timeline

Judy’s Story

  One evening in the fall of 1998, my husband handed me a newspaper article as our family was finishing dinner. “I think you’ll find this interesting.” he said. Our children by birth, ages 12 and 18, were gathering up their plates as I read a story about a five-month-old boy who was kidnapped from his crib while taking an afternoon nap in his foster home.

At the time, I owned two award-winning specialty toy stores in Massachusetts — fabulous family resources that I had spent 16 years building up — and where I imagined I would be working when I became a grandmother.

I finished reading and called my family back to the table to talk about what I had just read. We discussed the fact that when children are removed from their homes and placed in our public foster care system, we are all responsible for their well-being. We talked about the stigma and invisibility of youngsters who experience foster care. Our conversation led us to the conclusion that we had the resources and desire to be of service to these vulnerable kids. We decided to call the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families (DCF) and become a foster family.

Read more

On May 11, 1999, the morning after we completed our foster parent training classes, I received a call at No Kidding! from a DCF social worker. She said “We have two sisters, ages 5 months and 17 months. Would you take them into your home?” I made a quick call to my husband, and he said, “Yes!” When I shared the good news with the social worker she said, “We’ll be at your house in two hours!” I quickly made arrangements to pick up our 12-year-old daughter from school. We ran to purchase car seats, beds, high chairs, diapers and other supplies. As we drove into our driveway, the social worker’s car pulled in right behind us. This was the moment I met our youngest daughter and her big sister, two of a sibling group of six. This is our “birth story.”

At 48 years old, with a five-month-old on one hip and a seventeen-month-old on the other, I entered the world of child welfare. The first thing that hit me was the lack of resources. As I scanned the landscape dedicated to the welfare of children who have been removed from first families, I found it devoid of color, joy, opportunity, and people. I saw hundreds of dedicated child welfare professionals. I met foster, guardianship, birth, kinship, pre-adoptive and adoptive parents. What I didn’t see was other citizens actively pouring their time and energy into a very under-resourced Department of Children and Families. Where were all of the people, dollars, and ideas that my children by birth and their peers received on a daily basis? Nowhere. That was the beginning of my journey to create Treehouse Foundation.

What’s in a name?

People always ask where the name Treehouse comes from. I love treehouses! They represent a childhood icon that brings a smile to the young and the young at heart.

A treehouse is a place you climb up into, a place where you can find a new perspective—a more expansive view. It’s a place where you gather with friends, feeling safe and cozy. A place where you can imagine something new. That’s what we wanted to create for children and families. Together we have built a new kind of community. One that recognizes that all children need safety, stability and a loving home. All children deserve to be rooted in family and community.

The intergenerational Treehouse Community is built around the concepts of belonging, thriving, connection, trust, and the opportunity to soar.

Treehouse National Media – Live Links

The Hero Effect

A National United Way 30-minute docu-series about on Oprah’s OWN Network

May 2017

NPR “Innovation Hub” Segment

“Rebuilding Foster Care From the Ground Up”
January 2017

AARP Bulletin

"Retirement Communities of Care"
November 2016

Chronicle of Social Change

"Transforming Foster Care in America - One Community at a Time"
August 2016

Chronicle of Social Change

"Kindred Spirits Take Intergenerational Communities for Foster Youth West"

August 2016

Woman’s Day Article

"One Big Happy Family"

May 2016

Boston Globe Article December

"At Easthampton Village, All Care for Children"


Treehouse Foundation Leadership Awards

2019 Nonprofit of the Year Award, Easthampton Chamber of Commerce

2018 Public Voices Fellow (Judy Cockerton)
Encore.org/AARP/OpEd Project

2017 Innovator of the Year Award
Massachusetts Council on Aging

2017 Program with a Purpose, Best Cities for Aging Report
Milken Institute

2017 Innovation Excellence Award
Massachusetts Nonprofit Network

2015 Adoption Excellence Award for Systems Change
U.S. Department of Health & Human Services

2015 Citizen Activist Award (Judy Cockerton)
North American Council on Adoptable Children

2012 Myra Kraft Community MVP Award (Rosa Young, Treehouse elder)
New England Patriots

2012 The Purpose Prize (Judy Cockerton, one of 5 awardees out of 1,000 nominations)
Encore.org and AARP

2010 Congressional Angel in Adoption (Judy Cockerton)
Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute

Treehouse Community Housing Awards (Beacon Communities, Developer)


2008 NAA Paragon Award for Best Garden/Townhouse Community
National Apartment Association

2007 Charles L. Edson Tax Credit Excellence Award
Affordable Housing Tax Credit Coalition

2007 Community of Excellence Award
Rental Housing Association

2006 Best Special Needs Housing
Affordable Housing Tax Credit Coalition

2006 Best Family Housing
Affordable Housing Finance