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 January 5 (full), March 2, & May 4,2019. 

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. Winter Dates:  December 11, January 8, February 12, March 12

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.

Winter group will begin January 28 in Littleton, 1-2:30 p.m.

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, however parents using bottles for feeding are welcome!

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.

Childcare not available on March 14, 2019. Nonwalkers welcome in group.

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

Winter 2019 playgroups are listed in our newsletter (click below). 

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.


"My wife joined a group of new mothers through First Connections when our first child was born in 2015. It was a difficult birth, and the adjustment to first-time parenthood is bound to be a challenge for anyone. I do not know what we would have done had she not had the emotional support of the women she met through First Connections, and they and their families have become some of our closest friends. The value of a strong group of friends who not only care about you, but who understand your experiences better than most (as they are experiencing similar things at the same time you are) cannot be overstated. The friends she and we have made through First Connections have been invaluable over the past 3 1/2 years, and it is imperative that the program continue for the benefit of first-time mothers, their partners, and their children."
Dan H, August 2018
Additional Resources
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Looking for more activities to do with your family? Check out for activities around Massachusetts.

Parent with baby

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