NORTH ADAMS -- Northern Berkshire families now have an additional resource to call upon when they need support.
"The Family Place," a partnership of the state Department of Children and Families, the Children's Trust Fund of Massachusetts and the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition, opened its doors in March inside the coalition's offices, offering a variety of support groups, workshops and programs aimed at strengthening local families.
On Thursday, DCF Commissioner Angelo McClain toured the center during an open house with Brian Cummings, DCF director of community development; Laurie Sullivan, director of the DCF Berkshire area office and Ray Burke, director of the Pioneer Valley area
"I'd like to take credit and say three years ago we came up with this really wonderful idea of partnering with family resource centers, but it's really an old idea that Gerry Robinson came up with when he was commissioner of the Department of Social Services," McClain said, addressing a group of community members and local agencies partnered with The Family Place. "He said we really had to put an emphasis on family preservation. He felt places like The Parents Place, the Family Place and family resource centers were important. He felt we really needed to figure out ways within community to help families stay together."
The Family Place, one of 10 family resource centers in the state, was created by his administration to
"Our vision is simple," McClain said. "With all the budget cutting, we needed to put something in place to try to compensate for some of the losses we were having. We felt that it was important to try to build from the community. It's the best way to keep kids safe, make the family stronger and help parents develop a community."
Project Director Amber Besaw, who was hired in October 2011, said the main goal of the family place is to promote the strengthening of families through a framework of programming that revolves around five goals: parental resilience, social connections, knowledge of parenting and child development, concrete support in time of need and children's healthy social and emotional development.
"What we do is help families be connected and get what they need," she said. "We can connect them with the Department of Transitional Assistance, help them get SNAP benefits, and connect with programs like WIC. We offer referrals and can even go to their homes."
She added, "We have a fathers' group, "24/7 Dad," which is a 12-week program and every other week, we host a drop-in group that talks about parenting."
In addition, the center has partnered with Child Care of the Berkshire and Berkshire Children and Families to provide workshops and support groups. It's also partnered with the Northern Berkshire Y, which will host "Family Fun Night" for North Adams families tonight, from 5:30 to 7:30, with pasta and salad for dinner, along with swimming and games and activities for kids in the gym.
"I'm so impressed to see so many different levels of state officials here today to support this important piece of service to North County," Northern Berkshire Y Executive Director Justin Ihne said during the open house. "This will be our third Family Fun Night at the Y with The Family Place. When Amber and I got together earlier this year to discuss a partnership, it only seemed natural. We put an emphasis on family at the Y, so if the kids come [tonight] by themselves, we'll ask them to go home and get mom or dad or an aunt or uncle. We really want to help foster that family and community connection and the Y is the perfect place to do that."
For more information on The Family Place, call the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition at 413-663-7588.
To reach Jennifer Huberdeau, email