By Martin Renzhofer
Sue Baldauf has spent her adult life in human services, helping others to make their way through life’s crises through guidance and counseling. It’s serious work for serious people.
Early on, though, Baldauf had to learn how to leave the job at the office.
“You can’t take it home,” she said. “It’s hard to know when a light bulb went off. Mentors I had told me the same thing. You’ve got to be able to do the work and not take it personally.
“When I train students, or I mentor, I say you’ve got to be able to compartmentalize it.”
As director of Bedford’s Youth and Family Services, and after more than four decades of helping others, Baldauf is retiring. Sort of.
“I’d like to help out, maybe do some consultation,” she said.
A town department since 1987, the Bedford Youth and Family Services’ mission is to identify and address the social, emotional, and developmental needs of children, youth, adults, and families. The focus is on prevention and wellness.
Baldauf has been department director since 1997 and sees an opportunity to pursue more leisurely things.
“I want to travel for the time being,” she said in her office at 12 Mudge Way in Bedford. “I know I want to downsize our house. The stuff has kind of piled up, like bunny rabbits.”
Baldauf’s husband, John, a minister in Bedford, has a three-month sabbatical planned for the end of the year. That, combined with a wedding in Georgia and a chance to visit friends, as well as a high school reunion in Marion, Ohio, and it became obvious that it was time to step back.
“This would be a good time to say, ‘Time to leave,’” Baldauf said.
Baldauf believes she leaves behind a job well done, including a move from offices originally located in Bedford High School to the current location. Baldauf also lauds the work and commitment of her long-time staff and counselors.
“This [department] is seen by residents as a place they feel comfortable going,” she said.
Facts bear this out.
According to its 2018 annual report, approximately 10,000 Bedford residents contacted the department for information about services and youth events. This included about 4,800 specific contacts with more than 800 residents while fielding more than 1,100 phone calls, 350 e-mails, and 300 generic visits to the office.
YFS maintains strong ties with the Bedford school system in creating after-school programs, mentoring, and prevention programs.
As 2019 approached, Baldauf and staff looked to continue building community ties as well as finding ways to strengthen its educational approach to alcohol, tobacco, and substance abuse.
Confidentiality is also a vital part of YFS’ operation.
The first time Ann Guay, a member of the Bedford School Committee and an autism advocate, met Baldauf, they worked together in arranging a visit with then Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley.
They also work together as part of the Bedford Community Partnership, which meets the first Wednesday of every month. Baldauf chairs that meeting at the Bedford Police Department.
“[Sue] has been a nice partner,” Guay said. “She really knows how to meet the needs of folks. As Bedford has grown, I realized we needed different approaches to everyone’s needs, whether they’re vets, or homeless, or the disabled. They’re all here.”
Baldauf discovered that human services was her “bent” as a young adult.
“This has been a great job for me,” Baldauf said. “Doing community mental health like this has been a blessing for me. We’ve had a lot of freedom to what we can do.”
After growing up in Marion and earning her undergraduate degree from Ohio University, Baldauf took time off to work in the family lumber business. Eventually, she wanted to go to graduate school and decided on Boston University, where she received a Master’s Degree in Education.
Baldauf immediately began work at a shelter for adolescent girls who had run away from home. That’s where she found her life’s work, which included human services position for the City of Newton.
Baldauf took time off for marriage and to raise a child before taking a position at a non-profit counseling agency in Central Mass, and was there for 17 years.
With her husband now working in Bedford, Baldauf wanted a position closer to home and applied to an opening in Bedford’s Youth and Family Service’s Department.
Now, she can take some time in looking back.
“I’m proud of the many grants we’ve gotten,” Baldauf said. “The relationships built have been positive. It’s been a job well done. I’ll miss the staff and residents. The [YFS] Board has been great and supportive. Also, feel like we have developed a solid base moving forward.”