North American Family Institute (NAFI/NFI) was founded by Dr. Yitzhak Bakal in 1974. The years leading up to its creation had been tumultuous in Massachusetts. Adjudicated delinquent youth were being warehoused in antiquated institutions, far from their families and with minimal care. These abusive practices came to the attention of the Department of Justice, which led to a call for major restructuring. Dr. Bakal became a key architect in a group of reformers who closed the state’s draconian reform schools. As a result, Massachusetts became the first state to embrace a non-institutionalized approach to care for children and youth that eventually spread across the nation.
Working from a garage office, Dr. Bakal opened Northeastern Family Institute (NFI) with a single outreach and tracking program in Malden, MA. With its success came more opportunities to develop community-based alternatives that included residential shelters, foster care programs, group homes, treatment centers, and education programs.
As the effort to privatize services for adjudicated delinquents became a national movement, NFI expanded its services to Vermont, followed by other New England states, New York, Maryland and Florida, some of which became identified as North American Family Institute (NAFI).
Currently, NAFI/NFI operates more than 110 programs across eight states. As we’ve continued to grow, we’ve taken the path of decentralization, in order for programs to remain locally connected.