FIRST (Families In Recovery SupporT) Steps Together is a home visiting program dedicated to serving and empowering families on their parenting and recovery journey.


About FIRST Steps Together

FIRST (Families in Recovery SupporT) Steps Together is a program initiated and funded by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH), dedicated to serving and empowering families on their parenting and recovery journey.

FIRST Steps Together is funded by a grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and is administered by the Bureau of Family Health and Nutrition.

The Training and Technical Assistance Team (TA Team) within Jewish Family & Children Service (JF&CS) provides support and resources to the statewide home visiting program. This team also hosts ongoing learning opportunities for other providers serving families impacted by parental substance use.

FIRST Steps Together understands that pregnancy and parenting young children can be a hopeful and exciting time, but it can also be stressful and overwhelming, especially for those parents struggling with substance use or working on their recovery. Our program offers specialized support in navigating this complicated experience from peer support specialists and specially trained mental health counselors.

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What makes FIRST Steps Together different from other programs?

We understand that each family has their own story and that building relationships takes time. We work hard to meet each parent “where they are.”

Our Family Recovery Support Specialists are parents in recovery themselves, with specialized training that allows them to use their experience to walk with participants, as they navigate their recovery and parenting journeys.

We serve parents who have current custody of their children, those who are working towards reunification, and those who identify as non-custodial parents.

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“They really helped me become who I am today. I think if I didn’t have the Counselor and Family Recovery Support Specialist a couple times, I would have given up. I don’t know if I would have made it this far. I always tell them how thankful and grateful I am for them.”

- FIRST Steps Together Program Participant

Who is eligible for FIRST Steps Together?

FIRST Steps Together is open to any person 18 years of age or older, who has used opioids, stimulants, alcohol, cannabis and/or other substances, and who is pregnant or expecting a child, or has at least one child who is 5 years old or younger. Participants do not have to have custody of their children or be actively parenting to participate in the program.

What services does FIRST Steps Together offer?

Our program offers:

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Direct Service for Families

How do I find services for myself or someone I work with?

FIRST Steps Together has seven sites serving many cities and towns across the state of Massachusetts. You can find them listed below or view a map here. If you think this program is right for you or someone you are working with, please contact the site in your area to begin the referral process.

1. Hampden County
Square One
1095 Main St. Springfield, MA 01103
Shalonda Nicholson-Mabry, Program Coordinator
(413) 858-3133

2. Northern Worcester County
Making Opportunity Count
165 Mill Street, Unit 2B, Leominster, MA, 01453
Alvina Duffy, FIRST Steps Together Supervisor
(978) 956-3209

3. Greater Boston
Jewish Family & Children’s Service
1430 Main St. Waltham, MA 02451
Intake and Services Coordinator
(781) 419-6708

4.Plymouth County
Bay State Community Services Inc.
400 Washington Street, Suite 201, Braintree, MA 02184
Jennifer Seaberg, Senior Program Director
(857) 939-9681

Betty Doherty, Program Supervisor

5. Barnstable, Dukes and Nantucket Counties
Cape Cod Children’s Place
10 Ballwic Rd. Eastham, MA 02642
Christina Russell, Program Director
(774) 722-3305

6. Southern Bristol County
Bay State Community Services Inc.
908 Purchase St #308, New Bedford, MA 02740
Jennifer Seaberg, Senior Program Director
(857) 939-9681

Meridith Hallisey, Program Supervisor

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“(My Family Recovery Support Specialist) was wonderful… she kept me hanging on the whole way. No matter how much was on my plate at the time, she did her absolute best to break it down with me. You know, ‘One thing at a time’ and she kept my head level so that I wasn’t so stressed out over different stuff. She was there to walk me through the stuff.”

- FIRST Steps Together Program Participant

Trainings and Learning Communities

The Training and Technical Assistance Team

The Training and Technical Assistance Team (TA Team) supports the FIRST Steps Together staff across the state. We assist with project implementation through training, targeted technical assistance, project management and the facilitation of learning communities.

Our team works to build capacity in this field, supporting not only our own staff members but also expanding our reach to bring trainings and resources beyond our Massachusetts-based project. We support anyone who is interested in embarking on or further developing their work in building peer-led programs to serve families impacted by parental substance use. Our resources can be used by home visitors, mental health counselors, peer staff and others in the field who want to use person-centered, strengths-based approaches to support parents and people in recovery on their journeys.

Taking the First Steps Together: A Guide to Creating Collaborative Peer-Led Services for Parents Affected by Substance Use

Taking the First Steps Together cover

This comprehensive guide highlights our learnings from creating a strengths-based, person-centered, and trauma-informed program to serve families impacted by parental substance use across Massachusetts. We include tools and resources to help agencies implement these approaches within their own organizations.

The FIRST STEPS: My Family Portfolio was designed by parents in recovery to help other parents through their recovery and parenting journeys. It includes tools for wellness planning and recovery maintenance, goal setting, parent child activities, tips for advocacy, and supports specific to non-custodial parents. The FIRST STEPS: My Family Portfolio Provider Guide can help providers walk alongside families as they complete their portfolio.

Download Taking the First Steps Together, My Family Portfolio, and Provider Guide for free

Library of Resources

We offer live monthly webinars to support providers working with parents and families. We also have a library of recorded webinars to share. Please email Nahia Kassas at to be included on the mailing list and to register for upcoming webinars. Please check back here as we will continue to add trainings and materials as they are created.

Trauma, Resilience and Relationship in the Brains of Parents and Children
This three-part webinar was designed to help providers more deeply understand the relationship between trauma and resilience. The series looked at the impact of trauma on our brains, the cyclical nature of untreated multi-generational trauma, and the overlap and intersections of trauma and substance use.
Part 1
: How Trauma and Resilience Live in our Brains
Part 2: Thinking about Trauma & Resilience in Parent-Child Pairs
Part 3: Trauma and Substance Use Disorder

Understanding and Treating Parent & Child Dyads
This webinar focused on the parent-child dyad, with a brief introduction to how initial and ongoing interactions between parent and child shape future attachment capacities and strengthen our ability to regulate our emotions

Childhood Development Considerations for Home Visitors
This webinar presented an overview of brain development and the importance of attachment, communication, play, and literacy (i.e., reading, writing, talking, listening, crying) in child development. The trainers also shared tips and considerations for home visitors in each of these areas.

Trauma and Trauma Informed Care in Young Children
This webinar provided an overview of the effects of trauma on the brains, bodies, and behavior of children at different ages and developmental stages, and how we as providers can support parents and caregivers to create healing environments.

Racial Inequities in Maternal Health

Introduction to Mothering from the Inside Out

“(My Family Recovery Support Specialist) was really easy to relate to. She was very open and honest — as much as she could be, to keep it on a professional level. She wasn’t just sharing her experience; she was helping me through mine with what maybe she had learned in the past or how she got through or what helped her. She was there — every difficult time that I was going through — she was there.”

- FIRST Steps Together Program Participant