Meet JRI's Service Navigator

Our Navigator personally answers questions and talks with you about resources that may be available in the community to meet your individualized needs. If you have any questions about our programs or services, or aren't sure what you need, contact our Service Navigator, Rachel Arruda, and we will get in touch with you as soon as possible.

Rachel has been a part of the JRI team since January, 2000. For over 20 years, Rachel has been working in the field of human services assisting families with accessing and navigating services. Rachel received her Bachelors degree in psychology and Masters Degree in Public Administration from Bridgewater State University. She was promoted in July 2005 to Family Networks Program Director where she closely worked with the Department of Children Families for 10 years ensuring that children and families received the highest quality of individualized services ranging from community based through residential care. Rachel is very dedicated to helping the individuals she works with and is committed to improving the lives of children and families. Rachel’s passion for creative service programming inspires her in her role as JRI Service Navigator.


First Connections

Our mission at First Connections is to equip parents with tools, practical strategies, and connections to other families and their communities to foster healthy parenting and guide them through the first years of the parenting journey.

First Connections logo: Parenting resources for families with infants and young children
At a Glance
This service is for
Families with children birth to age 8 in the communities of Acton, Bedford, Boxborough, Carlisle, Concord, Hanscom AFB, Harvard, Lincoln, Littleton, Maynard, Sudbury, and Westford.
Professionals working with families with young children in those towns.
Age: Birth - 8
Gender: all
Let's Connect
Mary Beilman
Program Director, CFCE Coordinator
179 Great Road, Suite 104A
Acton, MA 01720
(978) 429-8284 x201
Linda Matthews, LSWA
Office Manager
179 Great Road, Suite 104A
Acton, MA 01720
(978) 429-8284 x202
Supporting First Connections

We are able to offer our programs free to families, thanks to funding from a Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care Coordinated Family and Community Engagement grant, the Community Chests of Concord-Carlisle and Maynard, the Acton-Boxborough United Way, CHNA15, the Staples Foundation, the Sudbury Foundation, and individual donations. Thank you for your support!


Acton-Boxborough Family Network:

Bedford Family Connection:

Carlisle Family Connection:

Concord Family Network: www.concordfamilynetwork.orgWoman holding baby and reading

Harvard Family Association:

Lincoln Family Association:

Littleton Parent Association:

Maynard Family Association:

Sudbury Family Network:

Concord-Carlisle Neighbors Club

Nashoba Valley Neighbors
(Acton-Boxboro, Harvard, Littleton, Maynard, Westford)

Military Family Support Group

First Year of Life

For a new parent, there many changes, many questions, and often a feeling of isolation. First Connections offers a wide variety of supports to parents of infants.

New Dads Group

Second Tuesday of the month, 7:00-8:30 p.m. at First Connections in Acton.

Expectant fathers and dads with a baby under 12 months are invited to come to their own group to make connections with other fathers, ask questions, exchange tips, and share their own unique experiences of adjusting to the changes that parenthood has brought to their lives. Fathers are welcome to attend with or without babies. Facilitated by Heather O'Brien, LICSW.

Registration required; please email Linda at

6-Week First-time Moms Group

Tuesdays, 10:00-11:30 a.m. at First Connections in Acton.

This group is facilitated by certified lactation counselor Mary Beilman. This group strives to be educational, supportive, and the ideal format for new mothers to share ideas and experiences. Especially helpful for those who have just left the working world or whose family is not nearby. During the six weeks we focus on adjusting to your new role as a mother, infant-care concerns (feeding, crying, sleeping), infant development, making the return-to-paid-work or stay-at-home-mom decision, and changes in your relationships with your spouse, family, and friends. Moms who attend this program can also participate in a Motor Development in the First 12 Months of Life presentation by pediatric physical therapist Mary Evans from Emerson Specialty Services in Westford.

Registration required; please email Linda at

New Mothers Group

Wednesdays, 1:30-3:00 p.m., held at Emerson Health & Wellness Center, 310 Baker Avenue, Concord, in the yoga studio.

Any mother with a pre-crawling baby is welcome to attend this weekly support group. Open-discussion format is a forum for you to share experiences and resources, connect with other new mothers, and seek guidance about any concerns you might have. No registration required. Facilitated by a certified lactation counselor or consultant.

Emotional Well-Being after Baby Group

Held every Thursday from 10-11:30 a.m. at First Connections in Acton.

Emotional challenges are the most common complication of pregnancy and childbirth, yet mothers often feel isolated and ashamed if they are struggling. Mothers experiencing anxiety or depression, or who are feeling overwhelmed in the postpartum year, can come together for this supportive, nonjudgmental, confidential group to share stories and learn from each other.

Before attending for the first time, please contact the facilitator, Heather O'Brien, LICSW at

Home Visiting

We visit Acton, Bedford, Boxborough, Carlisle, Concord, Harvard, Littleton, Lincoln, Maynard, Sudbury, and Westford.

First Connections can provide home visits in our service area for parents who have questions or concerns about postpartum adjustment, infant development, breastfeeding, or sibling-adjustment issues. 

Please contact

Parent and Child Playgroups

Space is limited in all groups and pre-registration before attending is required by emailing All groups are free of charge. Each child may register for one group. To receive our newsletter four times a year with playgroup descriptions and registration dates, email your name, child's name and age, and town you live in to

All playgroups are currently full.  Fall Playgroups end December 16th.
Winter Playgroups begin January 9th.  Registration for Winter Playgroups begins when the Newsletter comes out mid December.

Parenting Seminars and Workshops

Registration for all programs is required by emailing: or calling 978-429-8284.

Kindergarten Readiness Overview

Presented by Mary Beilman, MA, ECSE

The minimum age for compulsory school attendance in Massachusetts is six. Some parents struggle with the decision on whether to send their summer-birthday five-year-old to kindergarten, or wait until the following September when he/she will be six. Others may feel their child is academically ready but not emotionally ready for kindergarten. What should parents look at when making the decision for their child to be one of the youngest or oldest in his/her class? This seminar will provide opportunities for parents to learn how to determine if their child is ready for kindergarten, and what to consider when making the decision. Ages & Stages physical or social-emotional questionnaires will be available at the program if parents would like to see where their child may need to develop additional skills before attending school next fall. Pizza will be provided courtesy of our host!

Thursday, December 1, Bedford Children's Center, 7-8:30 p.m.

Mother with newborn child
Great support groups that were a life saver when I was a new mom. It was so nice to be able to share and not feel alone. And even though we all came from different towns, the mom friends I met there still get together regularly 3yrs later. Love First Connections.
Additional Resources
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Looking for more activities to do with your family? Check out for activities around Massachusetts.
Parent with baby
Click here for a listing of community-wide parenting education offerings.
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