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.

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, Digital Credit Union for Kids, and individual donations. Thank you for your support!


Acton-Boxborough Family Network:

Fall Kid's Tag Sale on September 23, 11 Charter Road, Acton. Info:

ABFN Spooktacular! October 28, 10-11:30, 16 Charter Rd., Acton $3/child, $10/Family max.

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 Association:

Future Classmates Get-togethers for Kindergarten 2018:

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.

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. Fall Dates: Sept. 12, Oct. 10, Nov. 14, Dec. 5

Registration required; please email Heather at 

6-Week First-time Moms Group

Mondays, 1:00-2:30 a.m. at Reuben Hoar Library, Couper Room, Littleton

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.

Fall Groups begin October 16 in Carlisle and November 27 in Lincoln

Registration required; please email Linda at

New Mothers Group


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.

Special Presentations:

September 13:  Baby Wearing demonstration and assistance

October 4:  Introducing Solids

November 1: Baby Sign

December 13: Baby Wearing demonstration and assistance

Me Too! A Mom-to-Mom Support Group for Second-Time (or More) Moms

Held every Wednesday from 12:30-1:30 at First Connection, 179 Great Road, #104A, Acton

Are you struggling with a perinatal mood disorder, a lack of support, or simply finding time for self-care? Do you need to connect with other moms who can relate to having more than one child? Me Too! is facilited by 3 moms trained by Group Peer Support and supervised by First Connections' social worker. Amalia, Candice and Elisabeth have a total of 7 children between them and they all experienced perinatal mood disorder - so they get it! The group offers a safe, friendly, judgment-free space where moms can share and connect, taking solace in knowing they're not alone. Babies welcome, child care available with advance notice.

Contact Elisabeth for childcare and with questions:

Emotional Well-Being After Baby Group

Held every Thursday from 10-11:30 a.m. at First Connections, 179 Great Road, 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, 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

See attachment above for current Fall playgroup openings.

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

The Importance of Play in the Lives of Children (and Parents)

Presented by Author and Psychologist Lawrence J. Cohen, PhD

Play is where children live, and it is the main way that they learn. Parents and teachers can visit children in this play zone for the purpose of forging closer connections, promoting learning, and just having fun. This talk, presented in conjunction with The Discovery Museum, will discuss dramatic play, physical play, and play to solve behavior problems and heal from emotional upsets. You will discover how to "learn from the natives" when you visit your children's world of play, and you will find more relaxation and joy in parenting and teaching.

Dr. Cohen is a licensed psychologist specializing in children's play and play therapy. In addition to his private practice he is an international speaker and consultant to schools and community organizations. Dr. Cohen is the author of Playful Parenting and The Opposite of Worry, co-author of The Art of Roughhousing, Best Friends Worst Enemies, and Mom They're Teasing Me. His books have been translated into 14 languages. He lives locally and has 2 grown children and a granddaughter.

Wednesday, October 4, 7:00-9:00 p.m. Registration is full.

Held at The Gallery at VillageWorks, 525 Mass. Ave., #200, West Acton

To register for this program:  No fee. $5 suggested donation at the door. (wait list)


Language Articulation Development and Fine Motor Development

Presented by Meghan Ledan, MS, CCC-SLP, and Irene Kounelas Gibbons, OTR/L

1-hour presentation for parents focusing on typical developmental milestones of preschoolers, when to be concerned, and what you can do to help your child reach their next milestone. No childcare available. To attend, email:

October 17, 1:30-2:30, St. Mark's Church, 75 Cold Spring Road, Westford

Free Parent & Child Fall Festival

Save the afternoon of Sunday, October 1, for the second Fall Family Festival. This year's Festival will be a joint event with the Concord Integrated Preschool (CIPS) and will be offered across both the Playscape and the new CIPS Playground. As with last year, the Festival will feature several groups and activities, including:

  • Concord Family Network and their annual CFN Fire Truck Wash! Children will get to wash a fire truck, meet a firefighter, and learn about fire gear, the fire truck, and fire safety.
  • Pumpkin games with the Friends of the Playscape at Ripley. Last year we had pumpkin bowling, a pumpkin obstacle course, and pumpkin golf ... what will this year's activities be??
  • A StoryWalk® with First Connections.
  • Animal visitors from Drumlin Farm.

The Festival is FREE and OPEN TO THE PUBLIC! Planning to attend? Please RSVP via EventBrite (so that we have a sense of numbers).

Mother with newborn child
"Thank you so much for these helpful resources! This information is so hard to find on your own, I really appreciate you pointing me in the right direction. It will be great to have opportunities to meet new moms in the area."
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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