February 22, 2021

Judy Cockerton BA ’73 - 2020 Distinguished Alumna Award

Distinguished Alumna Award

After her experience as a foster parent, Judy was moved to create the Treehouse Foundation. For 18 years, she has served as Treehouse’s executive director and has stayed true to the founding beliefs that every child deserves a permanent, loving family and families need a supportive community to succeed. The foundation leads two major initiatives: first, the award-winning Treehouse Community, a vibrant intergenerational neighborhood designed to support families adopting children from foster care and older adults who act as honorary grandparents, and second, the Re-Envisioning Foster Care in America Movement, which works to inspire widespread investment in foster care innovation.

Judy is a foster/adoptive parent, former teacher, and business owner. She is a nationally recognized social entrepreneur who is known for her innovative approach to inspiring a Re-Envisioning of Foster Care in America (REFCA) movement that promotes widespread investment in foster care innovation.

Judy and her husband became foster parents to 5-month-old and 17-month old sisters in 1999. She quickly understood the need for widespread investment in foster care innovation and sold her specialty toy stores. In 2002, she launched the Treehouse Foundation.

As the founder and executive director of the Treehouse Foundation, Judy has spent the past 18 years working diligently to change the national conversation around foster care and ensure that all children are rooted in family and community.

Treehouse is known for its award-winning intergenerational Treehouse Community model that’s designed to support families adopting children from foster care and older Americans who act as honorary grandparents. The first Treehouse Community opened in Easthampton, Massachusetts, in 2006. Members support each other by participating in neighborhood-based programs that offer educational support and advocacy, life skills, social/emotional development, arts, after-school activities, trauma-informed parent education, and peer support groups.

Judy and her dynamic Treehouse team are working with leaders around the country to replicate the Treehouse Community model. Treehouse is also currently in the process of planning the ninth national REFCA Conference to highlight award-winning social entrepreneurs.

Judy has won numerous awards for her work, including the $100,000 Purpose Prize for Intergenerational Innovation from encore.org in 2012 and the 2015 Adoption Excellence Award for Innovative Systems Change from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.