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County: It’s time to plan for kids’ summer


HUDSON—“My predecessors have done really good work, and I want to expand off what they’ve done,” Columbia County’s new Youth Bureau Executive Director Daniel Grandinetti said in a January 20 conversation. He plans to fulfill the charge the county Board of Supervisors have given him: expanding his department’s reach and enlarging its impact.

Columbia County’s new Youth Bureau Executive Director Daniel Grandinetti

Mr. Grandinetti started his Youth Bureau position in November, after retiring from 33 years at the state Office of Children and Family Services. He also serves on the school board of Schodack Central School District in Rensselaer County. Early this century for a couple of years, he was Youth Commissioner for the City of Hudson. He has also coached Pop Warner basketball and baseball teams.

The Youth Bureau supports programs that towns, municipalities, school districts and non-profit organizations run for children and adolescents. These include programs in the arts, as well as sports, and educational activities.

“There’s a lot of good work going on by a lot of dedicated people and we want to expand and build on it,’’ said Mr. Grandinetti. A goal is to “make sure we’re providing opportunities for every youth’s particular interests.’’

Increasing the bureau’s impact includes streamlining, coordinating and sharing services among the programs. It includes cross-pollinating similar programs in different municipalities. But in deciding how to direct funds and give advice, Mr. Grandinetti said, “We should let the towns tell us what they need. Each town has unique challenges.”

The youth bureau partners with stakeholders. And Mr. Grandinetti said he meets with school superintendents and town supervisors. In addition, the county has a Youth Advisory Board of “talented community leaders,” which acts like a steering committee with the “primary role” of oversight and generating ideas to make the youth bureau as efficient and effective as possible. The latest list of Advisory Board members, which the County Board of Supervisors must approve in February, includes officials from the DSS, law enforcement, and local youth programs.

Mr. Grandinetti added that he is happy about his department’s location in the same building as the Department of Social Services (DSS), because “there is a big overlap” between what the two departments do. Mr. Grandinetti called Robert Gibson, head of Social Services “a great ally and supporter.”

“We’ve done a lot of collaborating,” and aim to make sure youth support has “tentacles into every town and village in the county,” Mr. Gibson confirmed in a January 21 conversation. Mr. Gibson is on the list of proposed Youth Advisory Board members.

Mr. Grandinetti said his number one focus is to generate funds. But a goal is to make sure all the programs the youth bureau funds have specific purposes, clear objectives and obtainable outcomes. “My role is to monitor the process.”

‘We should let the towns tell us what they need.’

Daniel Grandinetti, executive director

Columbia County Youth Bureau

County Supervisor Claire Cousin (Hudson, First Ward), also reached January 21, recalled growing up “when there was a rich youth program. It really had an impact on how I view the world.” She said the youth bureau seeks to bring back the funds that were lost, “I don’t want more youth to miss opportunities.”

The bureau is starting with small scale programs, Ms. Cousin told The Columbia Paper. One proposal she is advocating would provide role models for Hudson teenagers. The program would consist of a drop-in center open daily, plus activity-based special events and field trips.

A lot of what happens now happens because “there aren’t a lot of opportunities for children,” Ms. Cousin said. Youth need role models, from similar backgrounds. Field trips would “get kids out of the City of Hudson,” to see there is a life out there. Destinations would range from New York City to Columbia County farms.

Ms. Cousin cited the need to build trust among youths, saying, one purpose of the program would be to divert youths from getting into unpleasant interactions with law enforcement.

“We do a lot of prevention programs throughout the county and in the school districts,” Mr. Gibson said.

Mr. Gibson announced earlier this week that he would seek the Republican nomination for Columbia County Judge in this fall’s election.

Another priority is planning for “vibrant” summer programs, with tuition support and transportation for those who need it. Mr. Gibson said the county plans to use a daycare grant to cover the tuition for summer programs for some children and to make sure that every town knows this. At a meeting of county supervisors last fall Supervisor Tistrya Houghtling (D-New Lebanon) lamented that last summer some children in her town had no transportation to summer programs. But now, Ms. Cousin said, “We’re working with the DSS on transportation for summer programs.”

“There’s a lot of good things happening,” said Mr. Gibson.

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