The national Pritzker Children’s Initiative (PCI), a project of the J.B. and M.K. Pritzker Family Foundation, announced that New Jersey was one of 14 states awarded planning grants as part of their Prenatal-to-Age-Three State Grant Competition, to strengthen and streamline a more efficient, effective and well-funded system of early care and education.
A significant piece of PCI’s strategy is aimed at expanding services that promote healthy child development to at least one million more low-income families with infants and toddlers across the nation by 2023.
“This is a big win for New Jersey and a tribute to the concerted efforts among state agencies, community providers and foundations, to advance an agenda for high-quality early care and education for our youngest children,” said Cecilia Zalkind, president and CEO of Advocates for Children of New Jersey (ACNJ), which will be spearheading the statewide effort. “It gives us the chance to look at the big picture to address the underlying barriers that prevent our state from helping our infants and toddlers get the strongest start possible.”
New Jersey is well-positioned to utilize the grant to strengthen and expand the positive work already underway in the state:
- New Jersey was just awarded a $10.6 million federal Preschool Development Grant (PDG), to promote a “comprehensive, coordinated early childhood system of care.”
- Over the last year, New Jersey has added funding to expand high-quality preschool, directed additional federal dollars to increase access to child care for infants as well as address disparities in maternal health and black infant mortality.
- ACNJ is heading the NJ Think Babies Coalition, a public/private partnership of more than 60 members, working to secure investments to meet the developmental needs of children, prenatal to age 3, at this most critical stage of growth.
- ACNJ is a lead partner in Right From The Start NJ, aimed at strengthening the state’s early learning system by enacting stronger public policies and increasing investments in programs and services for young children and their families.
- Private foundations have made a considerable investment in early care and education and are coordinating their efforts through the Early Years Funders' Collaborative.
- New Jersey has a statewide advisory council for early care and education known as the NJ Council on Young Children and several county-based parent councils exist across the state.
Over the next 9 months, ACNJ will assemble a leadership team to examine new approaches for better system coordination and sustainable financing strategies in early care and education.
“This grant competition has illuminated the nation’s commitment and desire to support infants and toddlers,” said Gerry Cobb, director of PCI. “The most promising applications described approaches that build on locally-driven efforts, address issues of inequity and maximize the best practices across child care, health, early childhood education and human services to address new challenges facing infants, toddlers and their families.”
Cobb emphasized that those receiving planning grants all demonstrated their ability to bring together public and private partners to address specific needs and challenges facing infants and toddlers and their families in their states.
Research shows that when we invest in the first three years of a child’s life, children start kindergarten ready to learn and the returns for the state are the highest, reducing the need for more expensive interventions later.
About the Pritzker Children’s Initiative (PCI)
The Pritzker Children’s Initiative (PCI), a project of the J.B. and M. K. Pritzker Family Foundation, is committed to building a promising future for our country by investing in and supporting solutions in early childhood development for children prenatal-to-age-three, with the goal of every child reaching kindergarten ready to learn. More information about PCI can be found here.