MMA Innovation Award winner
Award presented on January 23, 2010

Programs designed to educate parents about issues such as separation anxiety and cyber safety are nothing new in Bedford. But until recently, these efforts lacked a coordinated approach, according to Sue Baldauf, the town’s Youth and Family Services director.

Sometimes, she recalled, a program would be scheduled on the same evening as a school concert, for example, which limited the potential audience. In order to avoid such conflicts, the town decided to broaden the range of stakeholders involved in program planning.

Beginning a few years ago, the Bedford Community Partnership, a coalition that included the Youth and Family Services Department as well as a range of other community and school-related groups, began revamping how parent education programs were organized and presented.

Of the 14 sessions that have been held or are scheduled during the current school year, the Youth and Family Services Department is directly involved with only five of them. Other groups that host or sponsor sessions include the private Bedford LEAP School for preschoolers, a child care provider called A Place to Grow, the Bedford Special Education Parents’ Advisory Council, and the Middlesex District Attorney’s Partnership for Youth program.

“Other people did their own publicity, hosted, and basically took responsibility for their event,” Baldauf said.

At the start of each school year, the Youth and Family Services Department sends out a brochure with descriptions of each session, including the featured speaker and the target audience. Programs for the current year range from those designed for parents of young children, such as “Understanding Pre-School Development,” to “How to Enjoy Living With a Pre-Adolescent.”

While the typical session draws a few dozen attendees, many attract larger audiences. According to Baldauf, about 75 people showed up this past October when the Harvard psychologist Richard Weisbourd discussed his critically acclaimed book “The Parents We Mean To Be.” Last month, Ross Greene, a Harvard Medical School psychiatry professor and author of the book “The Explosive Child,” drew a crowd of about 175.

Authors such as Weisbourd and Greene, Baldauf said, have been willing to speak for lower fees than they typically command – another reason why the town’s share of the expenses remain minimal. Direct costs, including printing and mailing the brochures, amounts to slightly more than $2,000, she said.

For more information, contact Sue Baldauf at (781) 275-7727, ext. 263.