By Kate Tobiasson, Contributing Writer
Westborough – Westborough Youth and Family Services recently welcomed Cara Presley as its new director. Presley comes with a strong background in social work, no agenda and a clear mission to help support families. Her enthusiasm for her job and the town make her stand apart as just the type of director that the department needed. She replaces John Badenhausen, who recently retired after 23 years in the position.
“Throughout my career, I’ve been committed to social justice,” Presley explained. “I’m excited that I can bring my background of supporting marginalized communities to Westborough. I have a background working with survivors of abuse, immigrants and the LGBTQ community, among others.”
Presley began her career in Massachusetts at Wayside Youth and Family Support Network in Framingham. She spent several years working with adults at Fenway Health in Boston, a community health center with a mission to service the LGBTQ community, and is excited to return to working with children and families.
“In the just under three weeks that I have been in Westborough, I have had a chance to meet so many of the people in town,” she said. “I have been blown away by the dedication and sincere commitment that they have to the well-being of this town. I grew up in a tiny town in Kansas of just over 3,000 people. I have a real appreciation for the kind of small town comradery and loyalty that is found in Westborough.
“While the town is certainly larger, the mentality of people is very similar to that of my hometown. There are people who have lived here for a long time, and others who have committed their careers to the town. This commitment is contagious. There is a great synergy between departments and people in town; it is inspiring.”
WYFS currently offers a variety of supports to residents, including short- and long-term counseling for underinsured or uninsured families. The department also holds an annual holiday store, which provides a valuable service for the community.
“We also have a youth diversion program,” said Presley. “Our referrals usually come from sources other than the family, but we work hard to support all members of a family once we begin our supports. This is for youths who have gotten involved or are at risk of becoming involved with the criminal justice system; sometimes this is because of substance abuse policies in the school system or other minor infractions in the community. This is a short-term educational support system for youths and their parents as a way to support and steer them away from the criminal justice system.”
Additionally, the department offers support for families who are looking for ideas or resources to support their children; all of their services are free.
“When speaking with everyone in town, I was so impressed,” Presley noted. “All of the departments and schools are excited about the robust services that we offer in town. I’m excited about developing our levels of collaboration with groups and departments in town to broaden our reach of emotional and behavioral health supports. Talking with the police and school personnel have helped us consider new ways that we can support building awareness of the services that we offer.”