Sunday October 21, 2012

NORTH ADAMS -- There’s a new space for families on Main Street in North Adams.

Family Place has moved to 61 Main St., a central space for the collaborative project of the Northern Berkshire Com munity Coalition, Child Care of the Berkshires, Berkshire Children and Families, and the Berkshire-area office of the state Department of Children and Families.

"I just really want people to know [that] this is for everyone in the Northern Berkshire community," said Amber Besaw, who was hired a year ago this month to serve as the program director.

The Family Place joins the current Northern Berkshire Community Coalition space at 61 Main, expanding the current coalition office by 580 square feet. There is an office with two full-time staff members from Berkshire Children and Families and another part-time staff member can meet with and help families, regardless of whether they are affiliated with a social service agency.

There is an adjacent space with a couch, comfortable chairs, a low-standing children’s activity table, and materials ranging from books on parenting to building blocks, for families to use as resources. Fliers of all kinds are tacked to bulletin boards, heralding family fun nights, a group tailored to fathers, WIC support among other opportunities.

The Family Place is also granted the use of the coalition’s conference space, kitchenette, gathering area and playroom for children.


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"There are a lot of families that are hurting, that need help and support. We’ve offered some of that in the past, but we knew it wasn’t enough," said Al Bashevkin, executive director of the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition.

"This will be a positive place that’s embedded in the community and can help connect families to programs, services or just information, and they don’t have to be a part of any agency," said Department of Children and Families Com missioner Angelo McClain, who made a special visit to attend and speak at a recent open house for The Family Place.

Besaw, who moved to the Northern Berkshires from the Watertown, N.Y. area, said she and her family knows what it’s like to feel isolated.

"It was at my child’s soccer game where I connected with my best friend here, and that’s what you need to survive. I want our families to have that connection that mine did," she said.

The framework for programming and services includes five protective factors for families: parental resilience, social connections, knowledge of parenting and child development, concrete supports in times of need, as well as children’s healthy social and emotional development.

In particular, Besaw said that The Family Place will be partnering with the Berkshire County Sheriff’s Office to reach out to fathers and connect them in an active parenting role, working on community outreach and connection, and offering parent education programs.

"We all know kids don’t come with instruction books," she said.

To reach Jenn Smith:
jsmith@berkshireeagle.com,
or (413) 496-6239
On Twitter: @JennSmith_Ink

The Family Place

Where: 61 Main St., second floor, Northern Berkshire Community Coalition, North Adams.

Hours: Typically Monday through Friday, from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Appointments outside of these hours can also be made.

Access: Stop by or call (413) 663-7588.