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First Connections begins a Year-long Project to Encourage Courageous Conversations about Race and Diversity among Parents and within Families
First Connections is uniquely positioned, as a Mass. Dept. of Early Education & Care CFCE program serving eleven communities and focused on birth through age 8 families, to encourage and support parents in recognizing racism and taking proactive steps to raise inclusive, empathetic, anti-racist children.  The First Connections team spent the past year educating ourselves about biases, racism, and community action. While far from being experts in this field, we can speak to the importance of discussing race and diversity with young children and are able to share resources for age-appropriate conversations and learning opportunities. We continue to collaborate with the larger JRI workforce's "Listen, Learn, Lift" community and many local initiatives to build racial equity. We are excited to work with families and collaborators during the coming year offering activities and spaces for courageous conversations about race and racism. We welcome you to join us and encourage your ideas and feedback. 
Summer's activities include:
Talking with Young Children about Race and Racism
Virtual Live Webinar with Ellie Springer, M.Ed.

For the past thirty years, segments of American culture have responded to racism with a goal of being "color-blind" and not talking about race. This is a tactic followed by many white parents, in an attempt to combat racism. Studies now show, however, that this response is actually ineffective and harmful. Creating taboos around noticing or discussing race, ability, physical differences, or cultural customs is counterproductive. Racist ideas are pervasive in our society and children pick up on subtle messages all around them. In order to begin to change entrenched biases in our society, we need to explicitly talk about race and racism with children from the beginning.
 
That can feel scary and difficult. What if I say something wrong? How do I even start a conversation about such a heavy topic with my little kid? In this discussion, I will share some tips about how to talk about race and racism with young children in age-appropriate ways, attempt to answer your questions, and share lists of children's books and websites for further adult learning. Please note that I am white female and can only give my perspective as a white person with expertise in early childhood development. Like many of you, I am still on my own journey of learning to better understand racism and how I can be an effective advocate for people of color and welcoming to the broad spectrum of people within our communities. All caregivers are welcome.
Thursday, August 26, 7:00 p.m.
Resources for Talking To Young Children about Race
We have compiled a resource for families which includes:
  • Clickable links for activities to do with your children
  • Sources for locating diverse books for your home library or to borrow from your town's library
  • Articles/video that parents can read/watch and then discuss
Storywalk: The Ugly Vegetables
June 19 to July 2
Gleason Library, Carlisle
in conjunction with "June Jorneys" thru COAR:
Enjoy this story of a Chinese girl helping her mother grow vegetables - in a neighborhood where everyone else is growing flowers! When Mom uses the vegetables to cook the soup, everyone is intrigued and invited to share their delicious meal. Recipe, a coloring page, and a list of more picture books with Asian themes at end of the walk.
Storywalk: Ruby's School Walk
August 14 to August 27
Bruce Freeman Rail Trail-West Concord
On Ruby's walk to school with her mom, her wild imagination creates crocodiles, tigers and forests along the way as she wonders about what school will be like. Mom reassures her and she handles the transition like a champ! The story will be placed between West Concord parking lot and the Concord Rotary parking lot. Information on parking and accessing the trail:
Storywalk: Look Out Kindergarten, Here I Come!
August 7 to August 20
Grassy Pond, Plain Road, Westford
This book is bilingual Spanish-English and tells the story of Henry, who is excited for his first day of Kindergarten! When the day comes, however, he's not so sure. This encouraging story helps give kids some reassurance about this milestone in their lives. This conservation land has an easy half-mile trail around a pond, off-street parking, and 2 picnic tables available.
Summer Playgroup Schedule
To register for any group, please email lmatthews@jri.org. If this is the first time you are registering, please let us know what town you live in. We appreciate your respecting the minimum ages for groups

One Year Olds Storytime - Fridays from 10-11:00, July 16-August 20
In-person indoor group held at Roudenbush Community Center, Westford
We will meet in a large gym where we can spread out. We will sing songs, read a book, and do some movement activities. Masks will be required for adults. Children must be 12 mos. by July 12. Limited to 12.​

Two Year Olds Storytime - Thursdays from 10-11:00, July 15-August 19
In-person outdoor* group held at Trinitarian Congregational Church, Concord
This storytime is for children who are 24 months old by July 12. We will sing songs, read a book, and move our bodies outside on a playground. *In case of inclement weather, we will meet inside the church. Masks will be required inside but are optional outside. Limited to ​12 families​

Multilingual Language & Literacy Playgroup for Children Age 2-6 - Mondays, 9:30-10:30
In-person outdoor group held at 360 Mass. Ave., Acton, July 12-August 16
This playgroup is for children ages 2-6 who speak a language other than or in addition to English at home. Join us for an outdoor group where we will share aspects of our culture and language with one another, sing hello in our home language, read a story, sing more songs, and do some fun activities. Masks will be optional for participants. ​Limited to 12 families. Held on Zoom in case of inclement weather. 

Science & Nature Group for Ages 3-6 - Tuesdays from 10-11:00
In person outdoor group held at Boxborough Library from July 13-August 17
In this group, we will read a book and walk along the trail behind the library, investigating the natural world. Masks will be optional for participants. ​Limited to 14 families. Siblings welcome.
Held on Zoom in case of inclement weather. 

Multilingual Pre-K Indoor Group for Children Entering Kindergarten Fall 2021
In person, held at First Connections, Acton, Wednesdays 10-11:00, July 14-August 18
This group is for families who speak a language other than or in addition to English at home.
Pre-K Indoor Group for Children Entering Kindergarten Fall 2021
In person, held at First Connections, Acton, Wednesdays 1:30-2:30, July 14-August 18
Description for both of the above groups:
In this group, we will practice some skills children will need in kindergarten and talk about what kindergarten may be like. If your child has been in preschool this year, or if they have been at home, this group will be an opportunity for them to get ready for this new school experience. Each child will receive a story book about starting school and an activity book filled with activities to do to prepare for kindergarten.
Masks will be required for all children and adults. Infants in a carrier are welcome; we ask that you make other arrangements for mobile younger or older siblings. Limited to 10 families in order to minimize crowding in the playroom space. When registering, please state whether your child attended any in-person preschool from September 2020-June 2021.

Virtual Playgroup for All Ages - Meets Mondays at 2:00 on Zoom
​This group is for families with children age 12 months-6 years who are not yet comfortable participating in an in-person group or do not have transportation. We will sing songs and read books that appeal to a wide range of ages. Minimum enrollment will be 10 families.
Parent Association Groups are run by volunteers who are interested in meeting other parents with young children, and sharing their time and talent. Check out the one in your town and join to make new friends and/or volunteer to help organize events.
Acton-Boxborough Family Network Kindergarten Social

Open to All Acton & Boxborough Families with an Incoming 2021 Kindergartener!

Meet fellow students and families, play on the playground, climb aboard a school bus, and pick up your In Kindergarten book! Questions? chair@abfamily.org

August 7, 9:00-11:00 a.m.
Goward Playground behind Acton Library
486 Main Street, Acton Center
Summer New Parent Programs - Newborn to 12 Months

New Mothers Group - Every Wednesday, 1-2:30
Anyone who identifies as a mother with a pre-crawling baby is welcome to attend this ongoing weekly drop-in group facilitated by Early Childhood Educator Lactation Counselor and Infant Massage Teacher Mary Beilman. This open discussion group is a forum for you to share experiences and resources, connect with other new mothers, learn about your baby's developmentand seek guidance about any concerns you might have. Currently being held virtually via zoom. Email mbeilman@jri.org for the link. This group will NOT meet July 7 or 21

New Dads Group - Held Monthly on Tuesdays, 7:30-9:00
Our New Dads Group is 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. Meets July 13 and August 10

Older Babies Parent Group - Wednesdays, 10-11:30
This group is for parents whose babies are moving out of the newborn stage, beginning to move independently and eat a wider variety of foods. You may have different questions than parents who are in the "4th trimester." Your baby should be a minimum of 5 months and a maximum of 11 months at the start of this group. Weekly attendance is expected unless you notify us that you are unable to make it in case we have a wait list. This group requires registration for the summer semester, by emailing lmatthews@jri.org. Meets July 14, 28, August 4, 11, 18, 25

Enhancing Your Baby's Communication through Sign Language
Join Mary Beilman, a Certified Baby Sign Language Educator, to learn about the benefits of using sign language with your baby. Mary will demonstrate common American Sign Language signs to use with your baby to build communication skills before your baby develops language. This class is for caregivers and their babies, 2 months and up. Held Tuesday, August 24, 6:00 p.m. via zoom. Register for the link
Emotional Wellbeing After Baby - Every Thursday, 10-11:30
Funding provided by the Nordblum Family Foundation and Sage Therapeutics
Emotional challenges are the most common complication of pregnancy and childbirth, yet parents often feel isolated and ashamed if they are struggling. Mothers or fathers experiencing anxiety or depression in the postpartum year can come together in this supportive, nonjudgmental, confidential group to share stories and learn from each other while receiving coping strategies and skills. This is an ongoing weekly group for parents of babies 0-12 months. Before participating for the first time, please contact the facilitator, Heather O'Brien, LICSW, so she can send you the connecting zoom. 

Our office maintains an extensive list of mental health providers and support groups for postpartum depression. For assistance in finding a counselor or a support group that fits your schedule, or to speak with Heather about specific concerns related to postpartum depression or anxiety, email Heather O'Brien, LICSW.
Summer Community Parent Support & Education

Parenting Workshops thru The Loved Child, Belmont Full information here (fee based)
Positive Discipline for Families with Young Children: July 13, 7-8:30 pm, $35
Preparing the Family for a New Baby Sibling: July 27, 7-8:30 pm, $35
Supporting Sibling Relationships: August 10, 7-8:30 pm, $35
Toddlers 101: Tantrums, Hurting Behaviors, & "It's Mine": August 31, 7-8:30 pm, $35

"Racial Socialization as Resistence to Racism, the Early Years" via zoom (FREE)
When families work to help their children understand race and racism, they are engaging in a process known as racial socialization. To understand how racial socialization can be used as a tool for anti-racism, there is much to learn from families who have been racially marginalized and the lessons they have taught their children. Join EmbraceRace for a conversation in which we explore racial socialization as a vital form of parent and caregiver involvement and discuss strategies that resist and disrupt racism when socializing young children, ages 0 to 8. We’ll be speaking with Dalhia Lloyd, program specialist in family and community at the Buffett Early Child Institute. We’re also joined by two parents of young children about their approaches to helping little ones understand race and racism and be actively anti-racist. Register Here

Mental Health SOS (Summer of Support) 2021, virtual weekly topics for families (FREE)
Our affiliated JRI programs have put together a free program to help families process the difficult year we've been through and prepare for a healthy transition to Fall. All behavioral health and wellness topics will be presented by clinicians, with a brief presentation, followed by Q&A and discussion. Connect with those you are interested in via: Zoom Link. Mtg. ID 853 3544 6529, PW K1wbGn. Held 6:00-7:00 p.m. on Tuesdays.
June 22: Managing Stress & Anxiety During Re-entering a Post-Pandemic World
June 29: How Thoughts Affect Feelings and Behavior: Tips for Parents and Caregivers
July 6: Positive Parenting Strategies; Building Positive Structure at Home & What to do When Kids Disobey
July 13: Sensory Strategies for Regulation: How to Promote Emotional Regulation in Children of all Ages
July 20: Family Voice & Choice. What does it Mean, and Identifying Your Family's Needs and Vision
July 27: Recognizing and Treating Post-Pandemic Trauma and Anxiety
August 3: Positive Psychology Interventions; Learn about Positive Anticipation, Increase Contentment in Kids
August 10: Suicide Awareness & Prevention; Racial Trauma & Covid 19's Impact on Youth Suicide
August 17: Self-Care for Your Mental Health; How to Recognize when your Mental Health is Under Stress
August 24: Managing Negative Thoughts: Learn Practical Strategies to Manage Negative Self-Talk
August 31: Getting Ready for a New School Year - Tips & Strategies for a Positive Start

Virtual Parent Groups Held by the Center for Early Relationship Support (FREE)
If you have any questions, email dgardner@jfcsboston.org or Visit Website
Fragile Beginnings is for parents of babies who have spent time in the NICU, held on Tuesdays, 12-1:00 Register for the zoom link here
Parents of multiples meets on Wednesdays from 3-4:30. Register for zoom link here
Newly adoptive parents meets on Fridays from 10-11:30. Register for the zoom link here
Parents of toddlers (1-3 yrs) meets from 1-2:30 on Wednesdays. Register for the zoom link here

Parents Helping Parents Single Parents Support Group (FREE)
Speak with other parents who share the joys and struggles that most single parents have. Get advice feedback, and resources to help you manage this challenging parent role. Meets Wednesdays, 7-8 pm.

Infant and Pregnancy Loss Support Group (FREE)
This ongoing monthly group is for those who have experienced the loss of a pregnancy at any stage or infant loss shortly after birth and are looking for support from others with shared experiences. The group is facilitated by an advanced practice nurse with experience supporting families whose pregnancies have ended unexpectedly or whose infants have died. Individuals are encouraged to contact the facilitator, Katie Stockman, NP, at katie@kstockmannp.com or 617-299-1533 for the connecting zoom link.
July 12 and August 9, 6:30-8:00 p.m.

Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Support Group Returns to In-Person Meetings
Come share the rewards and challenges of raising your grandchildren. Learn from and support others in similar circumstances. Discover ways to relieve stress. Benefit from the resources available from the Commission on the Status of Grandparents Raising Grandchildren, and hear about State agencies which can provide assistance. If you are interested in joining the Acton-based group, which meets on the 3rd Tuesday of each month, 11-12:00, 30 Sudbury Road (Acton Senior Center), contact Joe O'Leary at 978-760-0360 or j.j.oleary@comcast.net. For additional statewide resources, workshops, & evening groups, contact colleen.pritoni@state.ma.us, 617-748-2454. All programs are FREE of charge.

Live (Virtual) Office Hours with Kathy Whitham, R.N. at Parenting Beyond Words (FREE)
Held the first & third Wednesday of each month, 1-2:00 p.m. Kathy is a trauma-informed Behavior Specialist using the "No Yell" model to help parents make sense of their child's negative behaviors and build on their strengths with effective tools and strategies. Email kathy@parentingbeyondwords.com to be added to the monthly zoom link notification for this drop-in. More Info Here

Adoption Journeys Monthly Support Group (FREE)
Every month this professionally-facilitated group for adoptive parents meets virtually for support, education, and connection. Periodic guest speakers, family events and a bi-monthly newsletter are additional benefits of registering. The summer meeting will be held on July 12 at 7:30 pm.To find out more or join this group, email Child & Family Services, Christina Zalaket

Our annual "Free and Low-Cost Things to Do List"

  • gathers family events in and near our 11 towns taking place in July and August into chronological order with registration information (if needed) and cost (if applicable)
  • includes museum passes available at libraries
  • includes places you can go at reduced cost with an EBT or WIC card
  • includes museums that waive entrance fees for military families during summer

We will post the list on our website on June 28 for July activities, and on July 26 for August activities. If you'd prefer it to be emailed to you, just let Linda know and she'll send it directly to your email as an attachment: Linda Jensen
Sunday, July 25
is National Parents' Day

This holiday was established in 1994 through a congressional resolution signed by President Bill Clinton "recognizing, uplifting, and supporting the role of parents in bringing up their children!"

New Resources in the Community
Local Childcare Subsidy Grant Available in Acton, Boxborough, Littleton, Maynard, Westford
A Cares Act Community Development Block Grant is now available on a first-come, first-served basis for income-eligible families. If you currently have an EEC Voucher you are not eligible for this grant. This program will cover child care for ages 0-13, including remote learning programs and summer camps that are unable to accept vouchers. A common application is available in English, Hindi, Portuguese, Russian, Simplified Chinese and Spanish. Town-specific application info & contact info:
Click for Information in Each Town

Boxborough: Rajon Hudson
Maynard: Janelle Franklin
Littleton: Amy Demichele
The Federal Eviction Moratorium ends June 30, 2021
Statewide Assistance Available for Evictions
If your family is at risk for losing your housing, there is now a statewide application you can submit for assistance from the regional office serving your town. Information is available in English, Spanish, Chinese, Hatian Creole, Portuguese and Vietnamese. There are programs that can help mediate and develop agreements with a landlord, give you additional time to make payments, and see if you are eligible for financial assistance.The goal is to avoid an eviction on your rental history report which can affect future housing options.
Click here to access the website: CELHP
Free Family Rules Charts
Toddlers and preschoolers may not always know what is expected of them and therefore may not always make the best choices. The Loved Child is offering families a free Family Rules Chart that is unique in that it states the behaviors you want to see more of, rather than negatively reinforcing the challenging behaviors you want to see less of. They recommend that the whole family sits down to talk about the 12 possible rules and jointly choose the 6 your family wishes to focus on.
Free "In Kindergarten" Book
If your child will be entering kindergarten this coming Fall, this free book can help make that transition more familiar by doing activities during the summer to get ready! The following Parent Associations will be distributing these books to members or at kindergarten activities this summer: Acton-Boxborough Family Network, Harvard Family Association, Westford Young Child Network and Bedford Family Connections. If you are NOT a member of one of these groups, and you are NOT registering for our Pre-K Playgroup, and would like a copy, just let us know and we'll put one aside for you. Email Linda
Kid's Lunch & Snack Packs Available at Open Table
If you find it financially difficult to provide daily nutritious lunch and snacks for your kids while they attend summer programs, Open Table can help. "Kids Packs" will be available starting July 12th at no cost to you. No photo ID or proof of financial need is required. Pickup times will be Mondays or Tuesdays 4-6:00 pm in Maynard, but you must reserve your packs in advance by filling out the form at this link: Open Table Kids Pack Reservation Form
Mentoring Program for Rising First Graders in Acton & Boxborough

AB Chats Virtual Mentoring Program is offering FREE summer mentoring partnerships for rising first graders in ABRSD. If you think your child may benefit from regular one-on-one, educationally enriching chats with a local high school student, read on! AB Chats volunteers will be assigned to a rising first grade "buddy" and will meet with him or her virtually for around 30 minutes, twice a week for the summer. They might read and discuss a story, play an interactive math or sight word game, or even just chat about a subject of interest. AB Chats trains the mentors and provides materials and suggested activities. Meetings can be scheduled at both parties' convenience, with reasonable allowances made for summer vacations.
AB Chats is a volunteer-based, free service aimed at helping children to develop communication, literacy, socioemotional, and academic skills. The program originally began while students were out of school and camps due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the model was so successful that we are continuing it.
The program is headed by local mom and AB ’97 Carla (Torrielli) Cafarella. Carla holds a BA in Psychology from Dartmouth College and an MA in Higher Education Administration from Boston College. While we communicate frequently with local schools, this program is not administered or sponsored by ABRSD. For more information or to register, please Email Carla Cafarella
Concord-Carlisle Community Chest
2021-22 Grant: $5,000

Eversource Matching Donation
$2,000

Massachusetts Cultural Council: $2,500

Maynard Family Network donated 800 diapers and pull-ups to our diaper pantry!