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Bedford Community Partnership

Massachusetts Municipal Association - 2010 - Kenneth E. Pickard Municipal Innovation Award


Limited communication between the local organizations that provided parent education programs covering issues such as cyber safety and dealing with separation anxiety led to conflicts in scheduling and limited participation. As such, the town of Bedford, Massachusetts created the Bedford Community Partnership to increase the number of stakeholders involved in the planning of parent education programs to create a more coordinated approach.


Programs designed to educate parents about issues such as separation anxiety and cyber safety are nothing new in Bedford, MA. 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 includes 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.

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.

The coordinated planning approach has resulted in better attendance, and authors and presenters have been willing to speak for lower fees than they typically command – helping to keep the town’s share of the expenses minimal.

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Tags: Civic/Public Participation, Collaboration/Intergovernmental Cooperation, Education and Training, Youth Services

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