Bookmark and Share

Mission and History


Families First promotes the secure and nurturing parent-child relationships that are the foundation of every child’s well-being and future success.


Every child is secure, confident, resilient, and able to seize opportunities and succeed. All of our children are loved, guided, and supported by strong, knowledgeable, and collaborative parents, caregivers, schools, and communities.

Our History

Founding and Growth

In the late 1980s, society was changing, and the family structure was changing along with it. Mothers were moving into the workforce in unprecedented numbers, divorce and remarriage rates were climbing, and the formerly “typical” family unit was no longer the norm. At the same time, changes in the job market led to an increased demand for a college degree in order to attain gainful employment, and many parents needed to work and take classes at the same time. With all of these new challenges, parents needed help.

Here in Boston, Wheelock College and the Boston Children's Museum founded Families First Parenting Programs with the goal of helping parents navigate the diverse challenges of raising children by providing research-based parenting education services.

During the fall of 1988, we offered our first workshops at the Boston Children’s Museum. These initial workshops were based on the work of the Center for Parenting Studies at Wheelock College and were funded in part by the Charles Engelhard Foundation.

Families First’s programs soon expanded into other neighborhoods and suburbs of Boston as requests for our groundbreaking workshops poured in. By the end of 1992, Families First had outgrown our home at the Boston Children’s Museum and moved to a new office in Cambridge.

During the 1990s, we provided technical assistance and core curriculum content to organizations interested in replicating our program in Houston, Texas, and Missoula, Montana.

In 1998 Families First was incorporated as an independent Massachusetts nonprofit corporation. Over the years, we have maintained close relationships with our founding and sister institutions while thriving and evolving as an independent organization.

Innovation at Families First

The end of the 20th century saw the largest wave of immigrants to the United States in 100 years. In response, Families First became an early provider of workshops in Spanish and Haitian Creole. We don’t simply translate the same curriculum, however. Our curriculum is adapted thoughtfully, taking into account the differing cultural norms of the communities we serve.

Our in-house experts are constantly translating the latest research on parenting into new and updated curricula. Because of this, Families First is uniquely positioned to address emerging parenting challenges, such as community and media violence, bullying, rising materialism, and new technology.

Since 2006 Families First has solely focused on serving parents in need—specifically those parents who lack access to adequate parenting resources. In addition to our traditional workshops, we are leading the field locally in new modes of parenting support, such as parent leadership trainings.

While some things change, some things remain constant. Relationships are the basis of the family and healthy development, so our work continues to center on guiding parents to promote healthy relationships with their children and strengthen their families.

Milly Arbaje leading Salem workshop

Teen Mom

Families First Mission & History
Families First Mission Statement History