This timeline shows some of the highlights from ACNJ’s record of success in advancing new laws and policies that help children grow up safe, healthy and educated.
1978 – Child Placement Review Act. New Jersey was the second state to mandate independent review of cases of foster children.
1979 – Children in Detention and Shelter Care: Surveying the System in New Jersey, a study that included recommendations for system improvements.
1983 – Juvenile Justice Code. This significant revision of New Jersey statute allowed more rehabilitation and family preservation for juveniles, while providing harsher penalties for those who commit serious offenses.
1983 – Child Care Center Licensing Act. New Jersey was the first state to set standards for child care centers.
1987 – Family Day Care Registration Act. New Jersey was the first state to set standards for people providing child care in their homes.
1988 – Catastrophic Illness in Children Relief Fund was established by the state to help families struggling to pay medical bills for sick children.
1988 – Publication of Pro Bono Attorney’s Manual, now called the Attorney Manual for Child Welfare Cases, is still used to educate lawyers in these cases.
1990 – Initial publication of You Have the Right: Your Rights as a Young Person in New Jersey, updated in 2001. More than 50,000 copies have been distributed.
1991 – ACNJ issued its first annual New Jersey Kids Count, later supplemented by Kids Count reports on counties and the state’s largest cities. These reports are the go-to source for data on children and families.
1992 – The Child Placement Bill of Rights became state law, establishing independent rights for children in foster care.
1993 – ACNJ opened the Children’s Legal Resource Center, which has since responded to thousands of inquiries and provided training to thousands of service providers, professionals and advocates, now called the KidLaw Center.
1994 – Stolen Futures was published documenting 115 cases from six Division of Youth and Family Services (DYFS) offices. It was awarded the Department of Health and Human Services’ Private Sector Award.
1995 – ACNJ launched the Community Orientation Course to develop child advocates in Trenton, Newark and Camden.
1996 – Court Assessment Project – Final Report, an assessment of quality and timeliness of court decision-making in child welfare cases, was used by courts to improve handling of DYFS cases.
1998 – Early Care and Education Coalition was brought together by ACNJ to advocate for high-quality preschool for New Jersey children.
2000 – In Abbott v. Burke, ACNJ participated as a “friend of the court” (amicus curiae) on preschool. The state Supreme Court ruling embraced ACNJ’s proposed preschool standards, acknowledged the value of its coalition and set the stage for New Jersey to become a national leader in preschool.
2000 – State Earned Income Tax Credit Act enacted. This law provides tax rebates to low-income families.
2000– Began project with American Civil Liberties Union to improve screening for lead poisoning. Since then, the number of lead-poisoned children has declined dramatically.
2000 – New Jersey Family Care Act expanded free- and low-cost insurance to low-income families, now includes Medicaid and covers more than hundreds of thousands of children.
2001 – Kinship Legal Guardianship law officially acknowledged the importance of relative caregivers and their need for assistance.
2002 – ACNJ joined and assumed a leadership role with the national Build Initiative to create a high-quality, comprehensive system of early care and education.
2003 – DYFS in Crisis: A Series of Policy Briefs helped inform the public and policymakers of the need for change in wake of the widely publicized death of Faheem Williams, a 7-year-old Newark boy who was known to DYFS and died while in the care of a relative. Help guide ongoing reforms.
2006 – Publication of I Can Make It !, a guide for older foster youth, followed by legal guides on special education, guardianship, the court process and foster families. More than 60,000 copies have been distributed.
2006 – Child Protection Data Report tracked the state’s progress in reforming the child welfare system. A second report was issued in 2007.
2006– Special report examining administration of medication to children in child care programs, initiated training to improve practice.
2007 – Transfer law enacted, requiring seamless transfer of credits for students moving from 2-year to 4-year public colleges. This has been a significant help to preschool teachers in low-income districts and all community college students.
2008 – State approved expansion of full-day, state-funded preschool to all children from low-income families. 2009. ACNJ was at the forefront of an effort to enroll more children in NJ FamilyCare, the state’s free- or low-cost child health coverage program. This resulted in tens of thousands of uninsured children receiving coverage.
2009 – Nearly 400 elementary and middle school students wrote letters to the future governor of New Jersey as part of ACNJ’s 2009 election advocacy campaign.
2009– Published Children’s Legal Bulletin and Use of Kinship Legal Guardianship in DYFS cases.
2011 – Launched the NJ Food for Thought School Breakfast Campaign, which has resulted in tens of thousands more children receiving a healthy morning meal that can help them concentrate and learn.
2011 – ACNJ issues first-ever Paterson Kids Count, which results in community coalitions forming to address key issues identified in the report, including early literacy and school breakfast.
2011 – ACNJ releases report on the need to involve foster youth in court proceedings when decisions are being made that affect their lives. This results in pilot program to encourage more youth to participate.
2012 – ACNJ releases report on success of juvenile justice reforms, calls for building on that success to keep more youth on the path to productive adulthood.
2013 – The NJ Food for Thought Campaign, led by ACNJ, issues school breakfast challenge. Districts respond with breakfast expansion to compete for grants and other prizes.
2013 – ACNJ issues news release drawing widespread attention to the state’s proposal to further limit the information that can be released to the public when a child dies or abuse or neglect.
2014 – After being nearly last in the nation for years, New Jersey jumped to 37th place for serving more children from low-income families a healthy breakfast at the start of their school day – largely the result of the NJ Food for Thought School Breakfast Campaign, led by ACNJ.