Youth Commission proposes new position, new focus on supporting families

Jun 24, 2019

A refocused Youth Commission has proposed to hire the town’s first Director of Youth and Family Services by this September in an effort to better support the town’s families and adult community members.

It is the result of a years-long discussion about the future of the one-person Youth Advocate department, which was brought into the forefront after the departure of former Youth Advocate Jen Cabral earlier this year.

Under a draft job position description, the new Director of Youth and Family Services would be tasked with planning, organizing, directing, and coordinating human services programs for youth and families. The position would be overseen by the Commission, which would be renamed the Youth and Family Services Commission.

According to Youth Commission Chair Jamie Jacquart, it is not a replacement of the town’s Youth Advocate, but rather an expansion and modernization of the program which has been a part of Dartmouth town government since 1968.

“There’s an unserved need in town — the needs of adults,” Jacquart said.

Core functions would still remain, like providing “bridge support:” interim services while the department works with people in need of help to connect them with external services and programs.

The new director would be a “first line” of support for anyone who finds themselves with an unexpected need for assistance, be it due to homelessness, mental health or substance abuse issues, abuse, trauma, or medical issues.

The new position will also address concerns that were raised two years ago, when the Youth Commission first considered making changes to the position. Youth Advocates were only required to hold a bachelor's degree, which now creates issues regarding liability and insurance coverage.

The new position would be required to hold a master’s degree, which would also open the department up to bringing interns and support staff on board. The ability to supervise interns will help the department expand at little financial cost to the town, Jacquart noted.

“With a one person operation the director is in the office providing direct support,” Jacquart said. “With interns there’d be more time to get out in the community.”

The draft job posting follows several months of planning and analysis on what other cities and towns in the state are doing to support children and families. The program closely mirrors similar programs in Falmouth, Acton, and Stoughton.

Over the past week, the Youth Commission held several meetings to solicit opinions on what residents wanted the department to look like. At one meeting, more than 12 school officials attended, and stressed the need to integrate with the schools.

Ideas presented included reaching out to Bristol Community College and UMass Dartmouth for interns, including LGBTQIA issues in the job description, including youth on the Commission itself similar to how the School Committee includes student representatives, and remaining a free service.

At a second meeting, several community members noted they’d like to see the department focus on prevention and helping children and families lead healthy lives, offer programs like babysitter classes, and form partnerships with the School Department, Board of Health, DCTV, and the Dartmouth Police Department.

Jacquart said feedback received at the meetings will be incorporated into the job posting and vision for the department. The job posting still needs some fine tuning and final approval, but the goal is to have the position filled by September to coincide with the start of school.