What’s New?

ACNJ Releases Ambitious Roadmap to Close Inequities for NJ Babies

In order to give all children a strong and equitable start in life, New Jersey must begin with an intentional focus on eliminating racial inequities and disparities in access to essential supports, according to a new report, Unlocking Potential, released today by Advocates for Children of New Jersey (ACNJ).

Read Unlocking Potential, A Roadmap to Making New Jersey the Safest, Healthiest and Most Supportive Place to Give Birth and Raise a Family

The statewide plan, funded by the Pritzker Children's Initiative (PCI), provides the action steps needed to achieve concrete targets related to early childhood development with the goal of ensuring an additional 25 percent of low-income infants and toddlers - 27,000 young children - will have access to high-quality services by 2023. These supports include access to quality child care, home visiting, health and mental health services.

Unlocking Potential is based on the belief that we all have a role to play in achieving equity and that supporting equal opportunities at the start of a child’s life is the first step in eliminating disparities that impact outcomes for babies, families and communities. The foundation for change is in place; the opportunity is now!


BLOG: Special Education Students Turning 21 in 2021 Entitled to Another School Year

Nina Peckman, Staff Attorney
Nina Peckman, Staff Attorney

According to New Jersey regulations, students with disabilities have the right to be in school until they turn 21 years old. Parents always had the right to advocate for their child to remain in school beyond 18 years old or a proposed graduation date in order to request additional or compensatory education.

Last week, Governor Murphy signed a law that authorizes school districts to permit students who turn 21 in the 2021 school year and who are receiving special education services to receive an additional year of special education and related services if the parent and the individualized education program (IEP) team determine that the student requires them, including transition services. The additional learning will be applicable for the next two school years.

Requesting the extension of services:
Those who believe that their child may be eligible for the extended services should:

  • write to their school district director of special education and school principal stating that you do not want your child to graduate, and
  • state that as S3434 was signed into law by Governor Murphy, they are requesting an IEP meeting to discuss the reasons why their child should remain in school for an additional year, and what services will be offered.

If the school district indicated that they are sending a diploma, the parent should write to the school's principal and director of special education stating that the diploma will not be accepted. If the child has already received a diploma, but the parent would like the child to receive an extra year of schooling, the diploma should be returned with a letter explaining that the parent is seeking an IEP meeting to discuss the child's right to remain in school an additional year.  

The letter to the school district advocating for another year of special education services should be sent with a certified mail receipt. It should include a statement that the parent intends to file for due process and request stay-put, the legal right of a special education student to remain in the last agreed-upon IEP placement during the due process litigation. In order to get this automatic stay-put, the parent must file for mediation or due process.

Since the child has a right to participate in graduation ceremonies and end-of-year celebrations with their peers without receiving a diploma, the parent should make that clear in their letter to the school district that they wish for the child to participate in graduation ceremonies but not receive the diploma.  

If the school district refuses to schedule an IEP meeting, asserts that S3434 does not apply or that the child is not entitled to stay-put, the parent will have to file for due process and ask for emergent relief. While it is preferable to file for due process prior to graduation, the parent may file for due process and request stay-put after graduation. 

For any questions regarding the foregoing or if the school district says that the child is not entitled to the additional year of school, contact Nina Peckman, Staff Attorney, at (973) 643-3876, ext. 226 or npeckman@acnj.org for further assistance.

Newark Kids Count Data Snapshot: The Impact of Covid-19 on College Students

Advocates for Children of New Jersey (ACNJ) released its second report in a two-part snapshot series, Newark Kids Count Data Snapshot: The Impact of COVID-19. The report analyzes how the city’s children and families are faring since the pandemic’s onset. In this second snapshot, College Students and COVID-19, data show how the pandemic has affected young people in Newark and their future educational and financial prospects.


Sara Thom, Chair, ACNJ Board of Trustees

Data Presentation
Newark KIDS COUNT 2021 Data Snapshot: College Students and COVID‐19
Alana Vega, Kids Count Coordinator, ACNJ

Panel Discussion I
Navigating the Pandemic‐‐Newark’s High School Graduates
Kaleena Berryman, Director, Abbott Leadership Institute, Rutgers University‐Newark
Tatiana Arce‐Rodrigues, 2019 graduate
David Daughety, 2020 graduate
Halimah Herbert, 2020 graduate

Panel Discussion II
Perspectives from Educators
Bianka Douglas, member, ACNJ Board of Trustees
Robert Clark, Chief Executive Officer, Newark Opportunity Youth Network
Roger León, Superintendent, Newark Public Schools
Sheronia Rogers, Asst. Dean, Center for PreCollege Programs, Rutgers University‐Newark

Q&A: All Panelists

Closing Remarks
Cecilia Zalkind, President & CEO, ACNJ

JUNE 21, 2021, is Child Tax Credit Awareness Day


Beginning July 15, nearly all families who have filed their tax returns will begin receiving child tax credit (CTC) payments. They will receive one per month. For each of their qualifying children age 5 or younger, most parents will receive $300 per month in July, August, September, October, November and December for a total of $1,800. For each of their qualifying children ages 6 to 17, most parents will receive $250 each month for a total of $1,500.

The payments should appear in your bank account automatically. However, because the IRS relies on tax returns to determine the eligibility, some people may fall through the cracks, such as low-income households that did not have to file tax returns. There’s a special website for parents and caregivers who are eligible, but who did not file taxes last year. It’s called the Non-filer Sign-up Tool.

National Kids Count Report: NJ Families Still Struggling to Provide Basic Needs Due to COVID


Today, as the federal government launched a new website and other resources explaining the new child tax credit, the Annie E. Casey Foundation released a 50-state data report that argues for making the expansion permanent. The 2021 KIDS COUNT® Data Book details how challenges remain as New Jersey slowly reopens and shows signs of recovery from the pandemic. The report of recent household data analyzes how families have fared between the Great Recession and the COVID-19 crisis, showing that Garden State families with children required urgent attention long before the pandemic.