Meet Youth and Family Services

Second in a new series profiling organizations in our community. Volunteers or staff will clarify who they are and what they do. You can learn about how to utilize their resources, join or help. 

Southborough Youth and Family Services

Southborough Youth and Family Services is a department of the Town of Southborough, and is a human service resource for the community, which focuses on the prevention and treatment of youth and family problems. We offer preventive programs, counseling, a traumatic incident response network, information and education.

Main activities (summary):

  • Counseling services
  • “Prevention” and “early intervention” programs.
  • A traumatic incident response network
  • Assist many of the more financially needy families in town.
  • A summer concert series

Activities are described in detail at the bottom of this post.

Most common misperception(s) about your organization:
One big “misperception” is that we don’t exist!

It is amazing how many people say to me things like “I’ve lived in town for 20 years and never knew there was a Youth and Family Services.”

The other biggest misperception is that a town like Southborough does not need something like what we provide, that there are no people with emotional problems or financial need here. There are people with a variety of needs in this town, as there are just about everywhere.

Your biggest obstacle(s) or challenge(s):
Limited funding is our biggest obstacle to being able to provide a wider array of services and programs. Most of our funding comes from the town, supplemented by funds raised by Friends of the Southborough Youth Commission.

In recent years, funding from both sources has become tighter, because of the economic situation. We have eliminated a number of programs over the past few years because of this.

Ways people can help:

  • Joining the Board – The seven-member board is appointed by the selectmen, which meets once a month during the school year and oversees the activities of the department. (Anyone interested should call or email us, or fill out a volunteer form at Town Hall.)
  • send_a_kid_to_campGetting involved with Friends of the Southborough Youth Commission, which is always looking for volunteers to help with fundraising activities.
  • responding to requests for donations at the holidays,
  • making donations to support our programs at other times of the year (e.g., for camperships)
  • supporting our budget at Town Meeting.

Laurie Sugarman-Whittier,, 508 481-5676, ext 1

Main activities (detailed description):
A major component of our work is counseling services, provided to children, teens, individual adults, and families, who are struggling with mental health or adjustment issues. We have historically met the needs of many hard-to-reach clients by being able to do outreach—to meet with students in the school, to meet with clients in places closer to their homes if they lack transportation, or to meet with them in places perceived to be less threatening than a traditional psychotherapy office. School staff, police, the courts, clergy, or worried family members or friends are responsible for most of the referrals to us. Our clinical services are free to residents of the town, though we gladly accept donations. Residents who might have a hard time accessing mental health services elsewhere are prioritized.

In addition to counseling services, we offer many “prevention” and “early intervention” programs. These programs work with children before they develop serious problems. Some of the children who utilize these programs are simply “regular kids” who will face many pressures and difficult decisions as they grow through their pre-adolescent and adolescent years. Others—who are targeted by the early intervention programs—are children who are at higher risk of developing serious emotional and/or behavioral problems, for any number of reasons. All of our prevention and early intervention programs focus on helping these young people to build a sense of self worth, and to learn positive decision-making and interpersonal skills which will help them to successfully negotiate the challenges ahead of them. Prevention programs include in-school groups, Project Friend (our Big Brother-Big Sister type program pairing elementary students with Algonquin students), and Friday night Teen Centers for middle school students. As part of our prevention program, we also participate in or provide on our own educational presentations for students, parents, and the community at large.

In 2001, we developed and took on leadership of a traumatic incident response network to intervene and give support when the community experiences a suicide, fatal car accident or other tragedy. We have trained school personnel, police, firefighters, EMT’s and clergy in the community, and have participants from all these disciplines in our network. We have responded to a number of incidents in town since the inception of the network, helping young people, parents, school personnel and first responders cope with tragedy and move on. We continue to provide clinical coordination of this network.

We also assist many of the more financially needy families in town. We provide information, and referrals to and help with accessing resources in the area. With the financial support of Friends of the Southborough Youth Commission, we also coordinate a Holiday Giving program and a campership program, and provide emergency financial assistance to these families.

This summer, in cooperation with the Recreation Department, we established a summer concert series, providing free, family-friendly entertainment on several evenings over the course of the summer. We are happy to provide an opportunity for families to spend fun, quality time together. With this same goal, we have sponsored Southborough Unscheduled for a number of years, an evening when there is no homework and there are no evening activities scheduled in town, and families are encouraged to enjoy activities together.

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