July-August 2019
First Connections Newsletter
Summer Programs

Thank you to Senator Eldridge, Representative Benson and Representative Gouveia for taking the time to visit First Connections and learn about our programs. We greatly appreciate all the families and community partners who shared stories with our legislators about their involvement with First Connections in such a way that they all left with a new understanding of what we do.
Annual Climb Out of the Darkness Walk 2019

Please register if you are walking for liability purposes - donations are optional. First Connections will receive 75% of funds raised in this event to support our Emotional Wellbeing after Baby Group, lactation consults, home visits and family support.

Saturday, June 22 
10:00 a.m.
Bruce Freeman Rail Trail in Acton

This walk will begin and end at First Connections, 179 Great Road, where parking, rest rooms, refreshments and space to feed your baby will be available. We will enter the trail through the Dunkin' Donuts parking lot across the street. Last-minute attendees can sign a waiver on-site in order to walk with us.

Climb out of the Darkness is the world's largest event raising funds for awareness of postpartum depression, postpartum anxiety, and all other mental illnesses related to pregnancy and childbirth, affecting 1 in 7 women. Postpartum Support International sponsors the annual walk.

Free Kindergarten Transition Books Have Been Distributed!


On May 17 Mary picked up hundreds of "In Kindergarten" books which were distributed to all Coordinated Family and Community Engagement grant programs in the state through a project coordinated by the Berkshire Museum and Berkshire Bank. Many children in our towns have received these books at their elementary school during kindergarten screening appointments or other kindergarten preparation events in May and June. Some screenings were held before we received the books, so if you have a child entering kindergarten in the Fall of 2019 and you did not receive a book and would like one, please stop by our office Monday through Thursday 9:00-3:00. The books have activities to do in June, July and August to help prepare children for their upcoming new adventure. 
Harvard  Family Association will distribute the books at their kindergarten get-togethers for Harvard residents this summer (eestanwood@gmail.com for dates).

Bedford Family Connection also has books for their kindergarten summer activities (bfcdirectors@gmail.com for information). Sargent Memorial Library in Boxborough will include the books in their book bags for children attending the Blanchard School Kindergarten Get-together on June 27 or August 7 (details at www.boxlib.org). 

Looking for that great homemade playdoh recipe?
Can't remember the words to your child's favorite song?
Want some tips on helping your child to learn to share?

Check out Ellie's Blog at this new link!

Our Annual Free & Low Cost Things To Do List will be posted on our website on June 21st. If you would like a copy emailed to you, send your email address to:

This is is a chronological listing of events taking place in the 11 towns we serve from June 24 to August 31. It also includes passes available at your library, co-pays for using those passes, and whether registration is required to attend an event. With all the libraries, summer music programs, Free Fun Fridays, and fairs going on, there is literally something to do every day that is free or very inexpensive!

Our Website is now Multilingual!
JRI has added a mechanism to our website so that the content can now be translated into:
Spanish, Portuguese,
Russian, Hindi,
Haitian-Creole, Japanese, and
Simplified Chinese
Just click on the flag on the upper right at:
Unfortunately the newsletter will not translate, only the website information.

Multilingual 1-2-3 Grow!
This is a video series where pediatricians talk about tracking your child's developmental milestones and signs of concern. There are also brochures that list developmental milestones for many ages. Both the videos and the brochures are available in:
English, Spanish, Arabic,
Chinese, Haitian-Creole,
Portuguese, Vietnamese

Pregnancy Loss Support Groups 
Finding Support through Community

Held on the 2nd Mondays of each month  at First Connections
July 8 and August 12, 2019
6:30-8:00 p.m.
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 kstockman@emersonhosp.org or 978-287-3422 before attending, though this is not required. This is a free program.
Grandparents Raising
Grandchildren Group
meets in Acton

Come share the rewards and challenges of raising your grandchildren. Learn from other grandparents and experts about legal strategies and resources. Discover ways to relieve stress.Share in the grief of your own children being unable to parent. Benefit from the knowledge available through the Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Grandparents Raising Grandchildren. 
Contact Joe O'Leary for more information, 
978-760-0360 or j.j.oleary@comcast.net

Meets at the Acton Senior Center on the 3rd Tuesday of each month, 11:00-12:30, 30 Sudbury Road Rear, Acton

If you have a child with any type of special need, there is a great monthly newsletter available to keep you up to date on activities, workshops, camps and events that could be helpful:

Collaborative Familying Parent Workshop Series

July 9: Conflict Resolution
July 16: Cognitive Behavior Coaching
July 23: Anxiety
July 30: Learned Optimism/Resiliency
August 6: ADHD
August 13: Dealing with Control Issues
August 20: Executive Function - Why it Matters

This series will be held at Simply Social Kids, One Industrial Way, Unit 4, Tyngsboro on Tuesday evenings from 7:00-8:00 p.m.  The group facilitator is Nadine Briggs, who is the director of this program. Fee is $25 per parent or couple. Video chat access is available if you are not able to attend in person. Contact 978-764-2758 or email Nadine at nbriggs@simplysocialkids.com.
July 8 thru August 16, 2019

Our State funding supports free registration for families living in Acton, Bedford, Boxboro, Carlisle, Concord, Harvard, Hanscom AFB, Lincoln, Littleton, Maynard, Sudbury, and Westford. Families from outside this catchment area who would like to participate in a playgroup will be confirmed 1 week before groups begin as space allows. If you need the contact information for the CFCE program serving your town, just ask - we can connect you! All CFCE grant recipients have the same programming requirements.  Registration is required for all groups by emailing Linda at lmatthews@jri.org.   

All children attending group should be within the stated age range of the group other than infants in carriers. If you have an older child you would like to bring once or twice, please check with Ellie first (espringer@jri.org) 

Please let us know ANY dates you will be away so we can serve as many families as possible each week.

Non-mobile Baby Playgroup (3+ months) Meets Wednesdays 
This playgroup includes developmental discussions and handouts, playtime, circle time with finger plays, rhymes and songs. Based on the Ages & Stages Developmental Milestones suggested activities for this age group. For babies who are not actively crawling yet. Out-of catchment families may register for this program due to supplemental funding for first-year-of-life programming.
Held at Gleason Public Library, CARLISLE, 1:00-2:00 pm
Older Baby 10-17 Month Playgroup 
This playgroup will have free play time at the beginning and short stories and songs at the end. The facilitator will be available to talk to and answer questions, but we won't have the same structured adult talking time as in the infant group because the children are starting to move around and sitting still for more than a few minutes is too much to ask! Children in this group should be actively crawling or walking. Based on the Ages & Stages Developmental Milestones suggested activities for this age group.
BEDFORD Library, Mondays, 10:00-11:00
ASQ Playgroup for Confidently Walking 1 Year Olds
Parents will learn what the developmental milestones are for one year olds in this group which offers free play time in a preschool classroom. Children will get to explore and practice specific activities to work on fine motor, self-help, communication, and social skills. Everyone will enjoy a circle time with stories and songs! 
Held at LEAP School in BEDFORD, Thursdays, 10-11:00  
Nursery Rhymes Playgroup for 2 Year Olds, Tuesdays
Recent research into the development of early literacy skills has conclusively shown that rhythm and rhyme play a hugely important role. This is because children's early literacy skills are about listening and speaking rather than reading and writing. We will explore different nursery rhymes in this group with activities and circle time. Please bring your child a NUT FREE snack and inform us during registration of any anaphylactic food allergies. Infant siblings worn in carriers welcome. 
Concord Carousel Preschool in W. CONCORD, 10-11:30 
Outdoor Explorations Group for Ages 3 thru 6 
Children need nature for the healthy development of their senses, and, therefore, for learning and creativity (Richard Louv, in " Last Child in the Woods"). We're going to put on our Scientific Hats during this group as we head outside to explore nature trails, the river and woods. We'll see if we can locate some endangered Blandings turtles and read a different book each week. We will be exploring Assabet River National Wildlife Refuge. Siblings under age 2 are welcome in a carrier, sling or backpack. Meet in the parking lot across from the visitor's center in SUDBURY,  on Fridays, 10-11:00 am.
Multilingual Families Playgroup for ages 1 ½ thru 5
A child's primary language and culture are key contributors to lifelong development. This playgroup is specifically for families who are conversing in a language other than English as part of their family culture and daily life. The group will include a parent/caregiver discussion topic on July 31. The group includes a circle time and snack time in addition to free play. If your child has a life-threatening anaphylactic food allergy please let us know when you register. If you are registering for this group for the first time, please let us know the language other than English that is spoken at home.Younger siblings in worn carriers welcome. 
First Connections in  ACTON , Wednesdays, 9:30-11


Our new parent programs receive supplemental funding in addition to our State grant and are therefore free and open to families from all towns. 

Ongoing New Mothers Group - Wednesdays 1-2:30
Held at First Connections, 179 Great Road, Acton
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 Professional from Emerson Hospital or First Connections. 
E motional Well Being After Baby Group 
For moms or dads with a baby 0-12 months
Held at First Connections, 179 Great Road, 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. While this is an ongoing, weekly group, before attending for the first time please contact the facilitator, Heather O'Brien, LICSW, hobrien@jri.org.  Meets Every Thursday, 10-11:30.  This group will not meet on July 4 or 11.
New Dads Group - One Tuesday per Month
Held at Maynard Public Librarydad_baby.jpg
Our new dads group allows dads to make connections with other fathers, ask questions, exchange tips, and share their experiences of parenthood and all the changes that come with it. Fathers are welcome to attend with or without babies, most of whom are 0-24 months. Facilitated by Heather O'Brien, LICSW, who runs our postpartum group for moms. Email hobrien@j ri.org to be added to the monthly reminder email list for discussion topics.  Meets Tuesdays, July 16 and August 13, 7-8:30 pm in the Roosevelt Room on the first floor. Park & enter behind 77 Nason Street.
Working Parents Playgroup

Our Working Parents Playgroup will look a little different over the summer due to funding and staffing now that our CHNA 15 grant has ended. The group will  meet at First Connections for a facilitated playgroup on:
July 13
August 10
9:30-11:00 a.m.

The August 10 group will also include a CPR refresher useful to families whose babies are starting to eat solids. Possible planned meetings in the community on the weeks in between are in the works. If interested in participating in this program, email lmatthews@jri.org and we'll send along the finalized details. The group is appropriate for full-time out-of-the-home working parents whose babies are 0-24 months. 
Free  Parent Seminars

Sensory Play and Exploration
Sensory play has an important role in development. Sensory exploration is a child's way of examining, discovering, categorizing, and making sense of the world. Play with different types of textures, tastes, and smells builds your child's vocabulary and helps fine motor skills. Email to register and let us know if you need childcare during the discussion (lmatthews@jri.org). Presented by Occupational Therapist Lauren Mazel. 
July 31, 10:00 at First Connections in Acton 

Introduction to Solids
By 6 months most babies are ready to begin eating solid foods as a compliment to breast milk or formula. There are developmental milestones that need to be in place before this new skill can be executed, however. Speech & Language Pathologist Marahu George will walk us through what those physical abilities are and how you can nurture them. This will be presented during New Moms Group.
August 7, 1:30-2:30 at First Connections.

CPR Refresher for Parents of Babies Starting Solids
If your baby is ready to begin solids and/or has moved on to self-feeding from a tray, you may be somewhat nervous about possible choking. Emily Lindlblad, a certified CPR instructor, will be at First Connections to give a pediatric CPR refresher to parents of new eaters. If you need to bring your baby with you, it would be helpful to have a 2nd person so you can switch off while practicing. Register by emailing lmatthews@jri.org.  August 10, 11:30-12:30 

We are grateful to the staff of Emerson Rehabilitative & Sports Therapies who are donating their time and expertise toward educating parents on their child's growth and development. www.emersonrehab.org
Specialty Camps for Kids this Summer

Camp Stepping Stones for families who have lost a loved one
One-day adventure for the whole family developed to support children, teens and their families through a combination of activities. Parents and other adult caregivers of campers will have the opportunity to attend relevant workshops, relax and unwind, and socialize with other parents/caregivers who know what it's like to raise grieving children.  The entire family will learn new coping skills while having fun. Held at Glen Urquhart School in Beverly Farms, MA. Transportation available from Metrowest if needed (978-750-9335). The only cost is a $25 registration fee per family. If you have questions, email camp@caredimensions.org. Member of the National Alliance for Grieving Children. Registration is online. 
Saturday, July 13, 9:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Social Skills Camp for Ages 3-6 in Boxborough
The Peter Pan Center will be offering their Summer Social Saplings camp where children learn prosocial behavior and independence social skills while participating in themed structured activities, playground trips, nature walks, and a visit to the police and fire station. $225/week for half-day morning sessions. Great way to get ready for school in the fall! Other social skills programs are available for older children. 
You can sign up for any Tues/Wed/Thurs week from July 9 to August 8. w ww.peterpancenter.com,  jbeary.peterpancenter@gmail.com, 978-985-1408

Camp Clio for Adoptees age 9-14 at Camp Jewell, Colebrook CT
This camp, where all counselors/role models are also adopted, can be an overnight camp or a day camp if parents choose to vacation nearby during the two weeks. The camp is appropriate for children who were adopted internationally, domestically, or through foster care. For more info: www.campclio.org
August 4-17, 2019

There are MANY camps available for children with all types of special needs - you can find a listing at:  http://www.spedchildmass.com/camps-special-needs-massachusetts-autism-aspergers/  
Fi rst Connections is a Coordinated Family and Community Engagement Grant program through the Mass. Dept. of Early Education and Care. We provide support, resources, and early childhood learning opportunities free of charge to all families with young children living in Acton, Bedford, Boxboro, Harvard, Hanscom AFB, Lincoln, Littleton, Maynard, Sudbury and Westford. Justice Resource Institute is our Lead Agency. 

Thank you to Concord-Carlisle Community Chest for the $15,000 grant
Thank you to Trinitarian Congregational Church, Concord, for the $4,000 donation
Thank you to Jessica Gratz for the $50 monthly donation
Thank you Julia Day for the $2,000 donation and matching Eversource donation

Thank you to those families who supported our program by attending the sold out Rock & Roll Fundraiser on April 6! We raised $4357 and helped to close the gap in our FY2019 budget. Raffle donations contributed greatly to this event's success and were received from:
Justice Resource Institute, Iuvo Technologies
Discovery Museum, Learning Express, Silver Unicorn Book Store
Elite Freestyle Karate, Music Maker School, Revolution Community Yoga
Kitchen Outfitters, Tavern in the Square, Blackbird Café, Jo Karen, Birch Tree Skincare
New Moon Acupuncture, Angela Noelle Coaching and Acupuncture
MIT Wallace Astrophysical Observatory, Feakes Associates, Dominic Brown
And thank you to The Potato Shakers, Sonic Love, and The Gallery at Villageworks for making this a success!

First Connect ions' Coordinated Family and Community Engagement renewal  Grant was approved in June for the level-funded amount  of $129,294 for fiscal year 2020.
WIC Program Locations and Eligibility Information
The Women, Infants and Children Nutrition program provides healthy food for your family if you have a child under age 5 and meet income eligibility requirements. A family of 4 can earn $46,638 per year and be eligible. Pregnant and breastfeeding women are also eligible for WIC. More information is available at https://www.mass.gov/service-details/check-eligibility-for-wic  or 1-800-WIC-1007. Local offices are in Ayer, Clinton, Marlboro, Leominster, Framingham, Lowell and Waltham.

Statewide Childcare Subsidy Wait List Information
T he Mass. Dept. of Early Education and Care provides subsidies to low-income families who meet the work or activity requirements and need childcare or before/after school/summer child care. If you are anticipating needing financial assistance for childcare within the next year, please read the information provided at this link to see if you are eligible, and if so complete an application now because there is a wait list: 

Do you live in Acton, Boxborough, Concord, Littleton, Maynard, Sudbury or Westford and not have access to a car during the day? The Cross-Town Connect transportation service has two low-cost options that can take you to First Connections, shopping plazas, the train station, town halls, libraries and Concord medical facilities. Children can ride in the vans without a car seat, or bring your own. The cost per ride is $1. Call 978-844-6809 or go to www.crosstownconnect.org for more information.  In addition, the Minute Van service provides scheduled pick up/drop off rides in Acton. To make a reservation in advance for your trip call 978-844-6809 or www.minutevan.net