First Connections | Justice Resource Institute

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.

Click here to visit the First Connections blog.


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, MA ECSE, CLC
Program Director, CFCE Coordinator
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

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, Emerson Hospital Pediatric Intervention, the Community Chests of Concord-Carlisle and Maynard, the Acton-Boxborough United Way, Acton Congregational Church, CHNA15, 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:

Check out: Kindergarten Connection - know your classmates before starting kindergarten!

Lincoln Family Association:

Littleton Parent Association:                               (website currently inactive)

Maynard Family Network: 

Sudbury Family Network:

Westford Young Child Network

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.

Working Parents of Babies Playgroup

Held in 8-week sessions on Saturday mornings, 9:30-11:00. Groups will begin in July, September & November 2018, and January, March, & May 2019. 

Parents of babies who are working full time and having a difficult time staying connected, managing stress, and finding a peer community -- which can be especially difficult if you had a short maternity leave or experienced any type of difficult birth experience, postpartum anxiety or depression. This group is focused on parents with babies 0-24 months who are unable to attend weekday playgroups. The group is facilitated by a rotating group of professionals from First Connections and NAMMA Families. Open to moms and dads from any town thanks to a CHNA 15 grant. To inquire about openings in the next session, email

New Dads Group

Usually the Second Tuesday of the month, 7:00-8:30 p.m. at Maynard Public Library, 77 Nason Street

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. Meets 7:00-8:30 p.m. Summer Dates: June 12, July 10, August 14

Registration required; please email Heather at 

6-Week First-time Moms Group

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.

Late Summer group will be held in Littleton and begins on August 20.

Registration required; please email Linda at

New Mothers Group

Wednesdays, 179 Great Road, Unit 104A, Acton, 1:00-2:30 p.m.

(directions link above) 

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, 179 Great Road, in Acton.    Will not be held July 5, 2018!

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, 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. 

Please contact Funding for this service has been provided through a donation from Emerson Hospital's Pediatric Intervention Team.

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

Children over 12 months will be registered on a space-available basis if they do not live within our catchment area: Acton, Bedford, Boxborough, Carlisle, Concord, Harvard, Hanscom AFB, Lincoln, Littleton, Maynard, Sudbury, Westford.


Parenting Seminars and Workshops

Introducing a Bicycle

Presented by Physical Therapist Karen Veilleux

Held at First Connections on Tuesday, August 28, 10:00 a.m.

Childcare available with reservations

What age is appropriate to introduce a bicycle to your child? What type of motor skills should be in place before successfully attempting this new way to have fun? What purpose do training wheels serve, and when is the right time to wean off of them? Join us for this parent presentation - your child is welcome to stay with us in the playroom if childcare is needed - just let us know he/she is coming. Email to register. 


Mother with newborn child
"I found the New Mom's Group incredibly helpful during these early months. I enjoyed meeting the other women and listening to their triumphs and challenges. And I especially appreciated your kindness and thoughtful suggestions throughout each group meeting. I hope as E. gets bigger we'll be able to take advantage of other programs that First Connections offers." Jessica, 1/17/18
Caitlin, June 2017
Additional Resources
Brain building in progress
Looking for more activities to do with your family? Check out for activities around Massachusetts.

Parent with baby

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