What is FIRST (Families in Recovery SupporT) Steps Together?
FIRST Steps Together is a home visiting program that was created to support you as a parent working on your recovery. Each family will be connected with a Family Recovery Support Specialist, who is a parent in recovery themselves.
FIRST Steps Together offers…
- Support for your recovery and parenting journeys from someone in recovery who has been there and understands
- A space to connect with other parents in recovery
- Help with your other services and providers
- Connections to resources and agencies to help with housing, benefits, childcare, and other needs
- Groups, care coordination, and the option of working with a mental health counselor
- Flexible services at home, in the community, and/or online
Our program is for parents with current or past opioid, stimulant, marijuana, alcohol, or other substance use, and is confidential, voluntary, and free. Pregnancy and parenting young children can be a hopeful and exciting time, but it can also be stressful and overwhelming for anyone. This can be especially true while working on your recovery, or if you’re unable to be with your kids at this time. Our services are driven by you and what you feel will be most helpful to support your recovery and parenting journeys.
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, marijuana, alcohol, or other substances in the past or present, and who is pregnant or expecting a child, or has at least one child age 5 or younger.
Do I have to have custody of my children to be eligible? Do they need to be living with me?
No, you do not need to have custody or have your children living with you. We will work with you to plan for Family Time with your children, help navigate your family action plan, and support you as you work towards reunification, when possible.
- “(Family Recovery Support Specialist) was honestly so wonderful, we clicked together so good. She was really open and kept it really honest. I felt comfortable sharing everything and anything with her. She was a really down-to-earth person. She kept it professional. She helped me in such up and down places. Just a wonderful, wonderful person. Honestly, I don’t know how I would have made it through some of the stresses of being pregnant or different stuff without her.”
- “It was really easy to relate to her. 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.”
- “(Family Recovery Support Specialist) is just really good at what she does, at least for me. She helped me a lot in my recovery. She shared her personal experiences with recovery with me. She helped me be stronger in my recovery. She understood and never judged me. Even if it was something that she never did, she would always give me the best advice on what the situation was. She was very resourceful.”
- “(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 tried, 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.”
- “They really helped me become who I am today. I think if I didn’t have (Clinician) 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.”
How do I sign up?
FIRST Steps Together has seven sites serving many cities and towns across the state of Massachusetts. You can find them listed below. If you think this program is right for you, please contact the site in your area to find out more.
What is FIRST Steps Together?
FIRST (Families in Recovery SupporT) Steps Together is a voluntary and free home visiting program, serving participants in their home, in the community, or virtually. We currently have seven sites across Massachusetts which serve parents with current or past opioid, stimulant, marijuana, alcohol, or other substance use. Our program offers strengths-based care, peer recovery support and coaching, parenting support and resources, case management, clinical counseling as needed, and connections to other recovery supports or treatment providers. FIRST Steps Together also provides support in accessing and maintaining other services, and coordinating and collaborating with new or existing providers including DCF, Early Intervention, and substance use treatment providers.
We understand that while pregnancy and parenting young children can be a hopeful and exciting time, it can also be stressful and overwhelming, especially for people working on their recovery. Our program offers specialized support in navigating the complicated realities of pregnancy and parenthood, while simultaneously working towards recovery from substance use. We serve families that have current custody of their children, those that are working towards reunification, those who are parenting independently, or with the support of a co-parent, grandparent, or other support system.
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, marijuana, alcohol, or other substances in the past or present, 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 exactly does FIRST Steps Together offer?
Those who are eligible will be matched with a Family Recovery Support Specialist (FRSS), a person in recovery who has received specialized training to provide peer support with both the recovery and parenting journeys. They share their lived experience, while respecting that there are many paths to recovery. As a program we seek to empower and support each participant to make the best choices for themselves, their families, and their recovery.
We also offer participants the opportunity to build parenting and recovery capital through a variety of groups, including psychoeducational and drop-in support groups; individualized clinical support; and referrals to additional services as needed. We can also provide support with basic needs, such as connecting clients to community-based services to help with food, diapers, and housing.
What interventions are available?
FIRST Steps Together sites offer a variety of evidence-based and evidence-informed interventions in both individual and group settings.
- Parenting interventions include:
- Parents as Teachers
- Brazelton’s Touchpoints and Newborn Behavioral Observation
- Positive Discipline and Recovery
- Active Parenting
- Parenting on the Other Side
- Sober Parenting Journey
- Celebrating Families
- Mothering from the Inside Out
- Child Parent Psychotherapy
- Group interventions include:
- Circle of Security-Parenting
- The Nurturing Program for Parents in Substance Abuse Treatment and Recovery
- Sober Parenting Journey
- GPS (Group Peer Support)
- Positive Parenting for Parents in Recovery
- Recovery supports include:
- Recovery coaching
- Referrals to medications for opioid use disorder (MOUD)
- Relapse and wellness planning
- Assistance with Plans of Safe Care
- Connections to recovery fellowships including AA, NA, AlAnon, Celebrate Recovery, Smart Recovery
What do FIRST Steps Together staff say about the program?
- “A parent and family we are providing services for worked with a FRSS on her DCF action plan and will now be able to reunify with her baby as a result of this work. Sometimes having a staff member be the go-between to support communications between a client and their case worker can have a significant impact on the outcomes. In this case DCF had an increased confidence that this mom had adequate support and a thorough safety plan, which impacted their decision in terms of the baby’s placement.”
- “(Family Recovery Support Specialist) worked with a pregnant client who was reluctant to prepare materials for a binder to bring to the hospital. The FRSS was persistent in helping to gather contact information, recovery plan, wellness plan, goals and plan of safe care. When the mother gave birth in the hospital the binder was ready and presented to hospital staff and DCF. This proactive support resulted in a positive outcome for this mother and she was extremely grateful.”
- “One of our families who the community partners had been attempting to connect with resources for the past 3 years reluctantly engaged with us. The first 3 months were very challenging, mom cancelled often (90% of the time with us and all collaterals), mom has a history of substance use disorder and domestic violence and a multitude of legal issues… (since working with us) all of her children are now up to date medically, they all attend school/daycare daily, the 2 older children now participate in extracurricular activities, Mom’s DCF case closed and full custody was returned to her. She received a lifetime restraining order against the father who had taken her into court for visitation. She is actively engaged in our support groups. This mom glows from the inside out and reports feeling happier and more connected but most of all she reports feeling safe and knows she has people she can count on.”
- “Can I just take a minute to let you all know how proud I am that I am part of such a wonderful program? Over the past few weeks I have watched our office turn into a safe haven for our [families] to feel that they can come here any time and vent, cry, laugh, and find a listening ear and they know they are cared for. These are just some of the things I have heard from (families):
- I stopped in after court because it was come here or go to a bar. She chose FIRST Steps Together.
- I'm feeling depressed and need to be here so I'm not home alone sleeping in my depression.
- I like giving back and know I can do that here.
- I love it here and all the support I receive and the feeling of belonging.
- I could go on and on. I have watched (people) come in and out of our office for groups, just checking in, enrollments, scheduled meetings, meeting with their Family Recovery Support Specialists, and I am in amazement…”
- “In a recent visit a clinician helped a mom re-engage to Methadone after she walked off the clinic, by meeting her there at 6 a.m.! This clinician spent a lot of time building connection with her client and establishing a long-term relationship, with ongoing outreach, and the important foundation of trust. This clinician also worked to build a collaborative partnership with DCF so they could stay in touch about the client’s needs. This example highlights how truly invested many of our staff are in supporting their participants. We understand that recovery doesn’t happen overnight, and it often isn’t a linear process. We want to provide ongoing support so that our clients know that our services are available when they are ready to take those first steps in their recovery and parenting journeys.”
How do I refer clients?
FIRST Steps Together has seven sites serving many cities and towns across the state of Massachusetts. You can find them listed below. If you think this program is right for someone you are working with, please contact the site in your area to begin the referral process.
Resources for providers and families
Taking the First Steps Together: A Guide to Creating Collaborative Peer-Led Services for Parents Affected by Substance Use is comprehensive guide that 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.
The FIRST STEPS: My Family Portfolio Provider Guide can help providers walk alongside families as they complete their portfolio. This Provider Guide explains how to help support parents as they complete each tool and includes Language for Advocacy and Collaboration which gives suggestions on how to communicate with other service providers around the family’s recovery and parenting strengths, concrete needs, and progress.
Barnstable, Dukes and Nantucket Counties
- Cape Cod Children’s Place
23 Whites Path, Unit 23G
South Yarmouth, MA 02664
Christina Russell, Program Director
- Clinical & Support Options, Pittsfield
877 South Street
Pittsfield, MA 01201
(413) 236-5656 Ext. 6012
- Baystate Community Services Inc. New Bedford
908 Purchase St., Suite 308
New Bedford, MA 02740
Jennifer Seaberg, Program Director
- Jewish Family & Children’s Service
1430 Main St.
Waltham, MA 02451
Intake and Services Coordinator
- Square One
1095 Main St.
Springfield, MA 01103
Shalonda Nicholson-Mabry, Program Coordinator
Northern Worcester County
- Making Opportunity Count
49 Nursery Lane, Suite 201
Fitchburg, MA 01420
Alvina Duffy, Peer Coordinator
- Baystate Community Services Inc. Braintree
400 Washington St., Suite 201
Jennifer Seaberg, Senior Program Director
FIRST Steps Together newsletters and promotional materials
- Rack Card
- Resources to Support Families Affected by Substance Use
- FIRST Steps Together coverage map
FIRST Steps Together newsletters
- Winter 2022: Book Sharing as a tool for connection and engagement
- Fall 2021: 2021 Accomplishments
- Summer 2021, SAMHSA Four Dimensions of Recovery
- Spring 2021: Groups
- Winter 2021: Goal Setting
- November/December 2020, Holiday Resources (PDF) | (DOCX)
- September/October 2020, Working with Dads (PDF) | (DOCX)
- Supporting New Parents (PDF) | (DOCX)
- May/June 2020, Forging Partnerships (PDF) | (DOCX)
- April 2020, Mindfulness to Support Parent and Children (PDF) | (DOCX)
- March 2020, Tools to Support Parent Child Relationships (PDF) | (DOCX)
- February 2020, Supporting Parent Child Visitation (PDF) | (DOCX)
- January 2020, All Paths to Recovery (PDF) | (DOCX)
- December 2019, 2019 Year in Review (PDF) | (DOCX)
- November 2019, Protecting Recovery During Holidays (PDF) | (DOCX)
- October 2019, Intimate Partner Violence (PDF) | (DOCX)
- September 2019, All Paths to Recovery (PDF) | (DOCX)
- August 2019, Breastfeeding Support (PDF) | (DOCX)
- July 2019, Community Connections (PDF) | (DOCX)
- June 2019, Caring for Substance Exposed Newborns (PDF) | (DOCX)
- May 2019, News to Use (PDF) | (DOCX)
- April 2019, News to Use (PDF) | (DOCX)