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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.

Services include:
Children's Playgroups 
New Parent Groups
Post Partum Depression Support
Parent Education Programs
Quarterly Newsletter
Free/Low Cost Family Program Information
Local Childcare & Early Education Information
Extensive Resource & Referral Guidance

Click here for our Fall 2021 Newsletter! (current Programs)
Click here to visit the First Connections blog.

Family together
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
Deborah Werneburg
Program Director
179 Great Road, Suite 104A
Acton, MA 01720
(978) 429-8284 x201
Linda Jensen, LSWA
Office Manager
179 Great Road, Suite 104A
Acton, MA 01720
(978) 429-8284 x202
(978) 429-8690
Supporting First Connections

First Connections is a Coordinated Family and Community Engagement (CFCE) program with primary funding from the Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care.  With additional support from generous individuals and organizations, First Connections' wide range of family services are offered at no charge. In order to maintain these services, however, we need your support! Please consider First Connections in your charitable giving!   

We would like to acknowledge our 2021 organizational donors (listed alphabetically): Acton-Boxborough United Way, Acton Congregational Church, CHNA15, Concord-Carlisle Community Chest, Emerson Hospital Community Benefits, Eversource, Massachusetts Cultural Council, Maynard Community Chest, Nordblum Family Foundation, Sage Therapeutics, and Trinitarian Congregational Church. Thank you for your support!

First Year of Life Programs


New Format! New Dads Group - Zoom Group                               
December 14, 2021,January 11, February 8, March 8, 2022

Dads who have already attended this group will receive the link automatically.

We are excited to announce that our New Dads group will now be a peer-led group, facilitated by two experienced dads. This group allows dads to make connections, ask questions, learn about child development, and share their experiences of parenthood. Adjusting to a new identity as a parent along with the changes in relationships with friends, family and partners can sometimes be a challenge. Fathers are welcome to attend with/without babies and continue to attend the group for as long as it is helpful. This group is geared toward fathers with babies 0-12 months. We are LGBTQ+ friendly and welcome any person who identifies as a father. Please email hobrien@jri.org before attending to receive the connecting link for this currently-virtual group. 

New Mothers Group-Wednesdays, 1:00-2:30   

This group is currently meeting via Zoom.  Email Mary at: mbeilman@jri.org for the link and password if it's your first group, then you will automatically receive it each week. Group will NOT meet December 29 or February 23.

Mary will be available on Wednesdays for phone check-ins before and after Moms group, 978-429-8284, ext. 201.  

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, however parents using bottles for feeding are welcome!

Emotional Well-Being After Baby Group - Every Thursday

EWAB is currently meeting via Zoom every Thursday, 9:30-11AM. Email Heather for the link and password if you're attending for the first time. You will then receive the link automatically each week. 

Emotional challenges are the most common complication of pregnancy and childbirth, yet parents often feel isolated and ashamed if they are struggling. Parents 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, learn from each other, and receive coping skills strategies. This is an ongoing group for parents of babies 0-12 months.

NEW- A group for parents of babies 12-24 months will meet on Thursday 11:30-1PM, from January 6 to February 17, 2022. 

Before attending for the first time, or to obtain more info on connecting to the group please contact the facilitator, Heather O'Brien, LICSW at hobrien@jri.org

Home Visiting - temporarily suspended due to COVID19. Zoom visits available. 

We visit Acton, Bedford, Boxborough, Carlisle, Concord, Harvard, Hanscom Air Force Base, 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. 

Parent and Child Playgroups


First Connections runs weekly playgroups for children (ages 1-6) to attend with a parent or caregiver.  These programs require advanced registration and usually run once a week for six to ten weeks.  These popular programs tend to fill quickly. To find out more about current availability or to be added to the waiting list for a program, please email lmatthews@jri.org. 

Click here to see our Fall 2021 Newsletter with a full list of our current playgroups.

Find Your Local Parent Association


Acton-Boxborough Family Network: www.abfamily.org

     Acton Boxborough Community Resources page

Bedford Family Connection: https://bedfordfamilyconnection.wildapricot.org  

Carlisle Family Connection: http://carlislefamilyconnection.org , carlislefamilyconnection@gmail.com

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

Harvard Family Association: www.harvardfamilyassociation.com  

Lincoln Family Association: www.lincfam.org

Littleton Parents Association: www.facebook.com/littletonparents

Maynard Family Network: www.maynardfamilynetwork.org  

Sudbury Family Network: www.sudburyfamilynetwork.org

Westford Young Child Network   https://www.facebook.com/westfordyoungchildnetwork


"Thank you so much for keeping the group running online. It was so good to connect with some new people. I was on the verge of tears when people were talking about family not seeing their babies and trying to juggle motherhood at home with partners doing "real work" so close by. I immediately felt better when you said that we're doing the hardest work. It was so validating and such a great reminder of what I knew before I became a parent. For me, being a parent is a huge honor that took us a little extra time to reach. Thank you for holding this space. "See" you soon!"
New Moms Group participant, 4/2/20
Program Blog
First Connections Blog
By Ellie Springer on May 26, 2021
Go! Go! Go! Stop!  Cherise Mericle Harper  Video of Ms. Ellie reading the book. Vehicle painting: this book is a perfect fit with one of my… read more
By Ellie Springer on May 14, 2021
The Napping House  Audrey Wood, Don Wood  Video of Ms. Ellie reading The Napping House Pile in the bed: let your child collect a bunch of… read more
By Ellie Springer on May 11, 2021
What’s This? A Seed’s Story  by Caroline Mockford  Video of Ms. Ellie reading the story. Sensory play: fill a bin with soil, some bigger seeds… read more
Tags: read aloud, Preschool, Toddlers, Nature
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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.