An innovator whose programs better the lives parents and kids

Many parents, seeking and sometimes struggling to find the best strategies to raise kids who are emotionally healthy and resilient, find a local online support system through Family Education & Support Services’ Parental Compass podcast, hosted by Bobby Williams.

And young people who may be struggling to find their identity and express themselves are able to channel their energies in a positive direction with singing and songwriting direction through working with the non-profit founded by Bobby, the Bridge Music Project.

“He is a really courageous and wholehearted advocate for what he is doing,” said Olympia City Council member Clark Gilman, board president of the Bridge Music Project.

Family Education & Support Services Clinical Director Scott Hanauer who was instrumental in helping him start and support these endeavors, says of him, “Bobby is creative and he is a visionary … Bobby has approached the Parental Compass with the same energy and passion he has for The Bridge Music Project.”

Bobby grew up in South Bend, Ind., and at 11, found what has become his lifelong passion, writing and singing rap music.

His life’s path led him to Evergreen State College, where he earned a degree in psychology. Stints followed at AmeriCorps, Haven House for young people in crisis and then at Community Youth Services (CYS), where he was a foster care case manager. That’s where he connected with Scott, then a CYS administrator.

“He’s like a second son to me,” Scott said.

He urged Bobby to expand his singing and writing outreach to more kids under the CYS umbrella until finally, Bobby’s work grew so big he went out on his own. Bobby now has eight-week classes for young people on singing and songwriting, and he’s recruited mentors who help young people learn the craft.

One of these mentors is Mike Jones, who was 14 when connected with Bobby. “I really needed someone to guide me where I needed to go,” said Mike, now 22. “With Bobby, it was amazing how we connected,” and how Bobby connected with so many other young people.

In 2020, Bobby and Scott, with the help of Family Education & Support Services Development Director Heather Antanaitis and Board member Tanya Murray, hatched the idea of doing parental podcasts. The first podcast in this new project, the Parental Compass, was debuted Sept. 15, 2020, with Bobby interviewing Scott about parenting through the Covid epidemic.

“We realized that during COVID, parental and family stressors were at an all-time high,” Scott said. “Most parents did not have the time or the emotional space to sit in pre-scheduled parent education trainings. We also realized that if Family Education & Support Services wanted to support parents and families, we needed to make pertinent information available to them when it fit their family’s schedules.”

Bobby said the podcast’s ability to fit into an individual parent’s schedule is one of its real values. Each podcast is usually about 20 minutes in length and is available to hear 24/7, so people can listen when it is convenient.

“Bobby used his intellectual curiosity to think about parenting and what topics parents would be most interested in learning about,” Scott said. “He has now created 50-plus podcasts, all of which are relevant in the lives of families. I know that the Parental Compass is utilized with Several of Family Education & Support Services’ programs, Kinship Caregivers, with families involved with the Parents 4 Parents program and at the UW (University of Washington).”

Family Education & Support Services Executive Director Shelly Willis said the organization gets positive feedback from all over the country, and even from other countries. Podcasts are used at staff meetings for organizations, support groups and in many other ways, outreach that is helping both caregivers and professionals.

Bobby says his day job remains reaching kids through songwriting and singing. He said he loves the interviews he does for the podcasts, though, and the information he can share through his guests.

“I like people and like sharing their stories with other people,” he says. Music is his first love, “but this is a great side job for me. I wouldn’t want to be doing anything else. I want to keep building The Bridge.”