ST. ALBANS — Todd Bauman is a man willing to try new things, even if they don’t work.

The importance of trying a fresh approach to solving a problem, and if it doesn’t work, trying something else, is a theme Bauman, the new head of Northwestern Counseling and Support Services (NCSS) returned to again and again during a lengthy interview with the Messenger last week.

“Take a bite. If you get a win, celebrate the win and do more,” said Bauman. If it doesn’t work, learn what you can from the effort, and try a different tack. “I think we’re going to have some wins. I think we’re going to stumble.”

He encouraged people – and organizations – who aren’t sure if NCSS can help to reach out. “Just call,” said Bauman. “If there’s something we don’t do, I bet there’s a way we can figure out how to do something new and innovative.”

A truancy program started by NCSS is an example of that willingness to be innovative. Unlike most truancy programs, this one is aimed at elementary and middle school students rather than high school students. Schools refer students who are missing one day a week or more of school, and NCSS staffers visit the parents to find out why.

“It really looks at truancy as a symptom of what’s going on in the family,” said Bauman. The parents may need help with something as straightforward as managing bedtimes or something as complex as homelessness. “Sometimes there’s domestic violence, and the kid will want to stay home because mom’s less likely to get hit if they’re there,” he explained.

Solving the underlying issues and improving attendance when kids are young increases the likelihood those children will graduate from high school, he added.

Thus far, the program has been a success, halving the number of children who are missing more than 20 percent of school days.

The program is an example of the three broader themes which emerged while talking with Bauman: prevention and solving problems early, addressing the broader context in which patients or clients live, and partnering with other organizations.

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