Changing Lives & Creating Futures since 1886- A Brief History of Berkshire's Evolving Mission



In 1886, Catherine Burnham’s love for children and family motivated her to persuade husband Frederick to donate 580 acres of land and buildings for what she believed was a great cause.

The former Shaker community in Canaan, New York became the Burnham Industrial Farm; a refuge for what were then called “wayward boys.” The idea that the Farm represented a family, rather than an institution, was a key factor in its success and its positive influence on the boys’ lives.

The Burnham family’s vision and personal commitment to making a difference in children’s lives has evolved into what is known today as Berkshire Farm Center & Services for Youth, one of New York State’s largest and most impactful child welfare agencies. Berkshire Farm Center provides a wide variety of services in 53 counties across New York State serving more than 2,000 children and families every day. Our goals in 2020, are built on the foundation established by the Burnham’s legacy. Strengthening these children and families so they can live safely, independently and productively within their home community is our life’s mission.

While Berkshire Farm Center is well known for our work in foster care and group home services, our facilities and expert staff provide resources and support in a variety of areas that contribute to the well being of children and families who are facing serious challenges. We are proud to offer these services to people in the communities Berkshire Farm Center calls home.

Foster Care Services In New York State, more than 25,000 children are in the foster care system because they have suffered abuse, neglect, abandonment, and other issues that endanger their health and safety. Families struggle with unresolved traumas and need support towards reunification. Berkshire Farm Center meets a critical need for children and families by providing these programs.

Foster Families: Berkshire Farm Center currently has over 550 certified foster families across New York State. The foster care team currently works with approximately 553 children to help them reunite with their biological family. We work tirelessly to identify “Forever Families” for children eligible for adoption. In the past year alone, Berkshire Farm Center found Forever Families for 47 children. 


Kinship Care:

Kinship parents have a direct connection to the child who needs to be temporarily removed from their home. A Kinship parent can be a relative, family friend or neighbor, or someone the child knows such as their little league coach or teacher. Kinship parenting is an important alternative to foster care and is a great way to support children from your community.

Respite Care:

A respite parent offers a home for a child whose foster or biological family is in need of a break. Respites are a resource for families and a commitment to care for a child may last one day or up to a few weeks. Family Preservation

Thousands of families in New York struggle as they face the stresses of poverty, domestic violence, substance abuse, mental health and unemployment. Berkshire Farm Center’s Family Preservation program provides the support these families need to stay together by offering these valuable resources.

Pathways — Serves youth and families with the goal of preventing child abuse/neglect and recidivism back into foster care.

Home Run — School-based prevention program designed to avert out-of-home placements of at-risk children due to school-related issues and difficulties with family functioning.

Family Connections — A short-term, intensive, home and community-based family preservation program designed to avert out of home placements of children at risk due to juvenile delinquency, status offenses, child abuse or child neglect.

Stepping Stones Program — Alternative to detention program offering intensive crisis intervention with the goal of reducing the county’s need to place youth in detention.

Functional Family Therapy — An evidence based, family focused model for working with at-risk adolescents and their families, This is a comprehensive method of treating individuals with severe clinical needs.

Turnabout — A junior and senior high school based truancy prevention program designed to avert out of home placement of children at risk due to poor school attendance.

Focus On The Future — Working with youth and families to deliver workforce education, develop community connections, learn life skills, and get academic support.



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Our Mission:

to strengthen children & families so they can live safely, independently & productively within their home communities

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Corporate Office: 13640 State Rt. 22 - Canaan, NY 12029