NAFI/NFI was founded by Dr. Yitzhak Bakal, who continues to serve as its president and chief executive officer. Dr. Bakal was inspired to launch the nonprofit after serving as Assistant Commissioner in charge of institutions for delinquent youth for the Massachusetts Department of Youth Services in the early 1970s. In that role he became one of the architects of the reform that created the closing of the state’s juvenile correctional facilities in favor of privatizing community-based alternatives. As a result, Massachusetts became the first state to embrace deinstitutionalizing care for children and youth that eventually spread across the nation.
After leaving the Department of Youth Services, in 1974 Dr. Bakal launched NAFI/NFI (then called Northeastern Family Institute, Inc.), joining a small group of burgeoning non-profits serving youth in the juvenile justice and mental health systems. He began with one contract, the Outreach and Tracking program in Malden, MA, which he operated out of his home. After its initial success, NFI continued to help meet the needs of this formerly institutionalized population by developing a foster care component. As the effort to privatize services for adjudicated delinquents grew, NAFI expanded its services to Vermont, followed by New Hampshire and several other states.
Today, NAFI/NFI operates numerous residential and community-based programs across nine states and the District of Columbia, continuing its mission of Creating Diverse and Innovative Services for Consumers in Behavioral Health. The organization is comprised of five corporations; the parent corporation, North American Family Institute, Inc. (NAFI), NFI Massachusetts, Inc., NFI North, Inc., NFI Vermont, Inc. and NAFI Connecticut, Inc. Within the parent corporation (NAFI), there are three regions: NAFI New York, NAFI Rhode Island Network and the NAFI Southeast region, made up of our programming in Florida and Virginia.
NAFI continues to grow and expand, developing continuums of care and services for youth, adolescents, families and adults at-risk. Under Dr. Bakal’s leadership, NAFI/NFI is also pioneering prevention and early intervention initiatives to help at-risk communities strengthen and thrive in struggling public housing developments and high crime neighborhoods.