Advocates for Children of New Jersey’s 2021-2023 Policy Agenda
To identify children’s needs through research, policy and legal analysis, to raise awareness of those needs through strategic communications, and to work with elected officials and other decision-makers to enact effective responses.
Investments in our children reap results. Not just for one child, but for thousands of children across New Jersey. Changes in public policy can mean the difference between growing up healthy and strong or facing a lifelong struggle to survive.
ACNJ’s goal is to help all children grow up safe, healthy and educated so they become productive adults, contributing to New Jersey’s communities, securing our future and making the state a better place in which to live.
For over 40 years, ACNJ has been the independent voice for New Jersey’s children, working with state leaders, local communities and many partners to implement changes and give every child the chance to grow up safe, healthy and educated. Our data-driven work and empowered advocates help us achieve better laws and policies, more effective funding and stronger services for children and families.
Sadly, not every child has the same chance to thrive in New Jersey. Children of color are more likely to live in families struggling with inadequate income. In 2018, 46 percent of Black children and 48 percent of Latinx* children lived in families with low-income, compared to 35 percent of all New Jersey children. Black and Latinx women are least likely to receive early prenatal care, leading to higher maternal morbidity and infant mortality. New Jersey ranks 47th in the country for maternal morbidity, with the mortality rate for Black women almost four times that of white or Latinx women and the infant mortality rate for Black babies is more than three times that of white babies. These disparities starting at birth have lifelong consequences for future health and well-being.
The COVID-19 pandemic has deepened these disparities. While the pandemic has deeply affected residents across the state, communities of color have been hardest hit, with families facing daunting challenges in ensuring the health, safety and education of their children. The racial inequities embedded in our society are clear. These unprecedented challenges have redoubled ACNJ’s commitment to children, starting with addressing inequity.
While this 2021-2023 ACNJ Policy Agenda sets forth ACNJ’s policy priorities for the next three years, ACNJ staff and board are mindful of the impact of the pandemic, especially on communities of color and low-income families. Thus ACNJ may shift our focus as needed to respond to more immediate concerns, while remaining committed to the following priority goals:
Early Care and Education
Ensure equitable access to high-quality early care and education to New Jersey children prenatal to age 5, particularly those who lack access because of race/ethnicity, family income or where they live.
Ensure that all New Jersey children grow up healthy with adequate health coverage, equitable access to physical, mental and oral health care and take action to address the social determinants of health.
Protecting Children and Youth
Ensure the safety and well-being of children and youth in New Jersey’s child welfare and juvenile justice systems, work to prevent inappropriate placement of children and youth into these systems, and address the disproportionate representation of children of color in these systems.
*Latinx is a gender-neutral term for people of Latin American descent.