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Supporting Youth and Families, Seniors, & Veterans

Thursday, July 14, 2022

Through its Department of Human Service Programs (DHSP), the City provides a wide range of services to families, including Preschool, Childcare, Afterschool, and Youth programs that is unique in the Commonwealth, many of which returned to in-person this past fiscal year. Below are some FY22 highlights.

Preschool, Childcare, and Afterschool programs, a part of the Department of Human Service Programs (DHSP), returned to in-person care and child-centered programming in September 2021. Preschool and Afterschool programs implemented a new, more equitable tuition scale. Now families up to 120% of HUD AMI receive subsidized care without needing to apply for scholarships. In the past year, 56% of Preschool enrollment is at or below 65% of HUD AMI, increasing the number of low-income families served.

The Center for Families offered in-person, hybrid, and virtual programming to families with children prenatal to age eight. Programs focused on understanding children’s developmental needs during the pandemic, supporting parents’ wellbeing and stress reduction, and helping families access and understand changing information. Center staff speak 10 different languages and reflect the linguistic, racial, and cultural diversity of Cambridge in order to ensure that all families can access family support services.

Baby University, the Center for Families’ 14-week intensive family support program, offered in-person and outdoor programming, virtual home visits, parenting groups, and other activities. Baby U also continued to support families in accessing essential items (diapers, clothing, food).

Cambridge Youth Programs (CYP) offered year-round, high-quality programming to pre-teens, middle schoolers, and teens at five Youth Centers. CYP prioritized lowincome applicants and enrolled pre-teens and middle schoolers through a lottery system.

Teen Internships. CYP also offered year-round, paid teen internships that supported, engaged, and uplifted Cambridge teens ages 14-19. The internships focused on leadership development, creativity, connection, and self-discovery. CYP hosted Teen Night Live summer program at the Moore Youth Center that invited 14-19 year olds to have fun and build community during weekday evenings.

Cambridge Commission for Persons with Disabilities (CCPD) provided essential technical assistance to City departments, residents, families, and Cambridge businesses and agencies. As City departments continued to serve residents in new ways, staff helped ensure that programs and information remained accessible and inclusive. Staff contributed to the development of the Language Justice Initiative’s Draft Plain Language Guide to ensure recommendations supported access and understanding for people of all abilities.

DHSP Community Schools launched a lottery application system for families applying to afterschool and summer camp programs, with the goal of making enrollment in Community Schools more equitable. As a result, participation of low-income families increased by 200%. 

Gold Star Pool opened in the summer and offered swim lessons for campers attending DHSP and community camps.

The War Memorial Recreation Center reopened in the fall, offering fitness programs and swimming lessons in accordance with public health guidance. It also hosted Friday Night Hype, a monthly program serving over 100 youth, and offered gym space to community programs. There were over 8,000 visits to the Gold Star Pool and War Memorial Recreation Center.

DHSP Community Schools partnered with Cambridge Public Schools to offer families a full day summer experience. Children who were identified as needing additional academic or social-emotional support were invited to enroll in the free program, which included academics in the morning and a fun, enriching camp experience in the afternoon.

Supporting Seniors. The Council on Aging (COA) provided virtual and in-person classes to over 1,385 seniors and hosted various monthly groups. COA also loaned Chromebooks to seniors and offered tech support to ensure that everyone who wanted to participate in virtual offerings had access. Demand for in-person benefits counseling and Medicare enrollment also increased.

The Cambridge Program and Camp Rainbow returned to in-person programming, providing connection, care, and recreation to over 100 children and adults with disabilities. In December 2021, the Cambridge Program holiday play featured 42 talented actors from the program. In April 2022, the Cambridge Program’s two basketball teams became Massachusetts Special Olympics State Champions after winning division tournaments.

The Early Literacy program hosted outdoor and virtual activities promoting literacy, family activities, and parent and caregiver support. Let’s Talk!, a literacy program of the Agenda for Children Literacy Initiative, held outdoor book distribution events, Book Bike Storytime, virtual and in-person parent-child playgroups, and placed 10 StoryWalks in City parks.

Cambridge Dads, Men’s Health League and Cambridge in Motion, held its second annual Dads & Kids Bike Ride in September 2021. Cambridge Police officers distributed free bike helmets and participated in the ride. The Community Development Department, in partnership with Bluebikes, provided free bike passes.

Veterans Support. The Department of Veteran Services increased wellness calls and mailed wellness packets to clients. Staff taught clients to order groceries online using SNAP benefits and collaborated with the Senior Center to expand health insurance information and options for veterans and their spouses.


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