COMPASS is one of Massachusetts’ leading providers of special education and human services for youth and families in need.

Since 1974, COMPASS’ programs and services have evolved in nature and location in response to changing needs of its clientele.

COMPASS’ mission is to equip those it serves with the skills to become self-sufficient, productive members of their communities and society.

The organization’s first services were special education, outreach and tracking, and foster care in the Greater Boston area. As the reputation of COMPASS’ successes and expertise began to grow, it started to have a wider base for referrals outside of Greater Boston and into Central and Northern Massachusetts.

Today, COMPASS has established itself as one of Massachusetts’ leading providers of special education and human services for youth and families in need. It specializes in providing services to an at-risk population that includes comprehensive and individualized education, stabilization, transition, counseling, support, and enrichment services.

COMPASS Programs



Organization Founded

In 1974, the Community Advancement Program (CAP Special Education) was formed due to the deinstitutionalization of the Department of Youth Services (DYS). CAP’s programs included outreach and tracking and foster care for DYS-involved youth. First located at 14 Beacon Street in Boston, CAP then established “storefronts” in South Boston, Dorchester, Roxbury, and Charlestown, mostly within Boys and Girls Clubs.

CAP to Boston Basics
CAP to Boston Basics

In 1977,  CAP Special Education changed its name to Boston Basics to reflect the broadening mission of the organization. At its peak, Boston Basics was serving over 100 chronically truant youth (CHINS) referred by Boston Juvenile Court.

4th Executive Director and Name Change to COMPASS
4th Executive Director and Name Change to COMPASS

In 1984, David Manzo was named the 4th Executive Director of the organization. Due to economic turmoil and financial hardships, the organization only had 8 employees. In late 1984, the organization was renamed to Community Providers of Adolescent Services, or COMPASS.

Growth of COMPASS School
Growth of COMPASS School

In 1985, COMPASS continued its relationship with Boston Public Schools as a site for emergency placements of high school students. The COMPASS School grew to include elementary students in 1986 and then middle school students in 1989.

First Violence Prevention Ceremony and Move to Jamaica Plain
First Violence Prevention Ceremony and Move to Jamaica Plain

In 1987, the COMPASS School held its first Violence Prevention Ceremony, resulting from the murder of a former student. The program was designed to educate students on how to stay safe during the summer months. COMPASS also moved its operations to Jamaica Plain at the former Blessed Sacrament School.

Harbor Point Program

In late 1987, COMPASS began the Harbor Point program, which ran in Boston. This provided an afterschool program for students of the Dever School. This program ran until 1999.

Community Services Program Begins

In 1988, COMPASS started a partnership with five Department of Social Services (DSS) offices in Boston, later named the Department of Children and Families (DCF), to provide “outreach and tracking” of involved youth. This was the beginning of today’s Community Services program.

Working with Springfield Public Schools

In 1989, COMPASS ran an emergency placement program for high school students in Springfield Public Schools. It started in a Springfield school building and then moved to the Springfield Boys and Girls Club. This program ran until the late 1990s.

Thompson Island Program

From 1990-1992, COMPASS collaborated with the McKinley School, Robert F. Kennedy Action Corps, Outward Bound, and Thompson Island to provide transportation and the facilitation of basic needs for youth and families in need.

COMPASS Consulting Services

In the early 1990s until 2006, COMPASS operated the COMPASS Consulting Services. COMPASS consultants provided public schools with an opportunity to gain a better understanding of the underlying challenges and potential interventions to creating more inclusive classrooms.

Education Consulting

From 1998-2007, DCF contracted COMPASS to develop a support system of Education Consultants to help their social workers and foster parents advocate for the appropriate education placements for the kids in state care.

Intensive Support Program
Intensive Support Program

From the late 1990s-2015, COMPASS ran the Intensive Support Program (ISP) at Boston English High School where COMPASS staff supported students with emotional and behavioral challenges.


In its various programs, COMPASS provides services to a wide variety of clients, including children and adolescents, families, public schools and school districts, and other private non-profit and public organizations. We define the quality of the services we provide in terms of the following core values:

  • Capacity Building: We facilitate with our clients the process of developing, as quickly as possible, their own independent capacity to progress and succeed.
  • Comprehensive: Our programs and services address the full range of client needs.
  • Cultural Competence: Our staff members understand, respond to, and embrace the cultural and linguistic diversity among our clients.
  • Individualization: We develop interventions and solutions that are tailored to the specific needs of our clients
  • Partnerships: We engage our clients as partners in problem solving.
  • Professional Development: We are committed to ongoing transformational professional development, including training, supervision, and ongoing support for our staff.
  • Reflectiveness: We constantly examine our practice and make adjustments to benefit our clients.
  • Relationships: Our services are based on a foundation of close and caring relationships with our clients.
  • Respect: We treat everyone in our community with respect
  • Responsiveness: Our programs constitute a fluid and flexible segment of the public education and human services continuum.
  • Teams: We foster a team approach to the delivery of services.
  • Timeliness: We respond quickly to the requests of our clients.
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