What’s New?

Share with Legislators ACNJ president’s Op-ed supporting legislative bills to invest in child care.

Posted on April 21, 2022

It's time to address the long-time child care crisis in New Jersey.  The pandemic didn’t create it – it exposed it.

Let's urge legislators to support Senate Majority Leader Teresa Ruiz's comprehensive package of bills that would help parents, strengthen programs and support staff. One bill, S-2476 (pending introduction), incentivizes the development of child care for infants and toddlers, the most difficult for families to find.

Share the op-ed authored by ACNJ President Cecilia Zalkind describing this historic proposal.

The package comes with a $360 million price tag. But we need to tell state leaders that this is an investment we cannot afford not to make.

Read the Op-Ed

New Jersey's commitment to children has led to extraordinary advances, putting the state ahead of the rest of the country and most importantly, improving the lives and well-being of newborns and preschool-age children.

But we are still missing the babies.

Let's make some noise for child care  and take a moment to send a message to your state leaders that this is a critical investment for children, families and for our economy.

During this legislative session, ACNJ is calling on the state to:

  • Improve access to infant/toddler care by increasing the number of available child care programs;
  • Expand child care assistance for parents of very young children; and
  • Support the child care workforce, who have historically been underfunded and underappreciated

Unlocking Potential: Our Ambitious Roadmap to Close Inequities for NJ Babies

Posted on June 24, 2020

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!


TAKE ACTION: Urge your congressional leaders to support the Child Care Stabilization Act

Posted on September 15, 2023

Attention Child Care Programs and Working Families!

Congresswoman Sherrill introduces bill to avert the child care cliff crisisOn September 13th, Congresswoman Mikie Sherrill (NJ-11), along with other members of the House and Senate, introduced the Child Care Stabilization Act, which will extend significant federal grants to child care programs in New Jersey and throughout the United States. The legislation guarantees that these programs - essential to working families and the economy- do not experience the devastating effect of a looming “funding cliff” when the federal COVID funding expires at the end of September.

A recent report by the Century Foundation estimates that in New Jersey, more than 1,300 child care centers might close, impacting more than 100,000 children who need care and New Jersey parents could lose $378.5 million in earnings.

This just cannot happen.

Urge your members of Congress in both the House and the Senate to support working families and their children by becoming a co-sponsor the Child Care Stabilization Act.

Don’t hesitate—the end of the month is fast approaching!

Sherrill Takes Action to Extend Child Care Funding and Avert Crisis for New Jersey Families and Providers

Posted on September 13, 2023

Sherrill Continues Fighting to Bring Down the Cost of Child Care for New Jersey Parents and For Months Has Sounded the Alarm on the Child Care Cliff

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, Congresswoman Mikie Sherrill (NJ-11), alongside House and Senate Democratic leadership, introduced the Child Care Stabilization Act, which will extend critical federal grants to child care facilities in New Jersey and across the country. If passed, this legislation would ensure the U.S. doesn’t hit a funding cliff — which would be devastating for families and the U.S. economy — when the previous federal funds expire at the end of September.

“As a federal child care funding cliff quickly approaches, the Child Care Stabilization Act will protect economic security for New Jersey parents and help keep the doors open for more than 1,000 child care centers across the Garden State,” said Rep. Mikie Sherrill. “We know that child care isn’t just a women’s issue — it’s an economic issue for families and businesses alike. As a mother of four school-age children, I know firsthand many of the challenges parents navigate when searching for affordable child care, and I’m going to continue fighting for them to make New Jersey a better and more affordable place to live, work, and raise a family.”

“During the pandemic, Democrats answered the call of parents and providers and invested $39 billion into our child care system. This historic relief funding allowed parents to return to work, businesses to survive, and our economy to recover,” said Democratic Whip Katherine Clark. “We can’t turn back now. Child care is economic infrastructure — it is critical to growing the economy by growing the middle class. We must urgently enact the Child Care Stabilization Act to protect the financial security of families and workers and maintain our progress in the fight for affordable, high-quality care for all.”

New Jersey leaders also spoke out about the cliff and in support of Sherrill’s efforts:

“Even prior to the pandemic, the child care industry in New Jersey and the nation had its considerable challenges. The loss of American Rescue Plan funding will exacerbate those challenges in this critical industry in the short term and the long term. Extending the Child Care Stabilization Grants will provide much needed support to working families, childcare providers and employers who rely on having a present and functioning workforce,” said Michele Siekerka, President & CEO of the New Jersey Business & Industry Association.

“Child care across the country is about to fall off a financial cliff that thousands of providers will not recover from,” said Meghan Tavormina, President New Jersey Association for the Education of Young Children. “The Child Care Stabilization Act has the ability to provide stable funding to our industry over a period of time that will allow states the time and opportunity to build a sustainable, affordable and accessible early education system that our children, families, early educators, and economy all desperately need.”

“A strong, growing economy is directly linked to the existence of quality, affordable, and accessible child care,” said United Way of Northern New Jersey CEO Kiran Handa Gaudioso. “Congresswoman Mikie Sherrill understands that without this critical infrastructure in place, our most financially vulnerable ALICE workers face choosing between going to work or caring for their children. Continuing these grants provides workers, children, and our communities the greatest opportunity to meet their potential.”

“Child care is an essential need for working families, but this sector has not recovered from the COVID-19 pandemic and remains in crisis. Head Start centers and private programs continue to face critical staff shortages, at a time when children and families are coming to us with greater needs than ever. Credentialed staff members are leaving for better paying jobs––jobs that are less stressful and which don't require the intensive training needed for the ‘heart work’ of caring for young children,” said Susan O’Donnell, CEO of the Head Start Community Program of Morris County.  “Child care stabilization funding to support staff wages and operating expenses has enabled many programs to sustain services since the pandemic. Absent this funding, the impact on outcomes for children, families, and the economy is a very real concern if adults—mainly women—are forced to leave the workforce due to a lack of child care. The Child Care Stabilization Act will be a lifeline for early care and education programs, enabling parents to contribute to local economies and work while their children learn and thrive in safe, high-quality settings.”

“The American Rescue Plan’s (ARP) COVID child care funds provided financial stability to the entire child care system that is essential in supporting parents’ ability to go to work and for the economy to grow,” said Cynthia Rice, Senior Policy Analyst at Advocates for Children of New Jersey. “But this system had funding problems long before COVID. While the ARP dollars helped, it resulted in a short-term fix and didn’t address child care’s long-standing problems, such as a lack of teachers due to low wages, and the increasing costs in doing business. Today, child care is the working parents’ and the economy’s version of ‘too big to fail.’ Ask any parent who can’t find or afford care for his/her child or an employer who is struggling to hire staff due to their own problems in finding care. Today, this bill acknowledges that it is time for those long-standing problems to be addressed by providing much-needed funding to ensure that that ‘failure’ never takes place.”

The legislation introduced today extends the Child Care Stabilization grants, first provided through the American Rescue Plan, for an additional five years. Specifically, the bill provides $16 billion annually to support child care centers across the country and keep doors open for parents and children.

Experts estimate that without action, child care centers across the country could be forced to close their doors, costing more than $10 billion in economic activity each year. Parents without affordable child care options will also shoulder the consequences, forced to reduce work hours or drop out of the workforce entirely — this could cost U.S. families more than $9 billion in earnings. The child care workforce is also projected to lose more than 200,000 jobs at a time when the industry is already experiencing a workforce shortage.

In New Jersey, more than 1,000 child care centers are expected to close and more than 100,000 children could lose their child care. The funding cliff will also result in $453 million less in employer productivity and Garden State families will lose nearly $400 million in earnings.

Sherrill has fought tirelessly to avert the funding cliff and to bring down the cost of child care for New Jersey families. Earlier this year, she convened a panel of parents, providers, and business leaders to discuss the need to bring down the cost of childcare, hosted a roundtable with parents at the YMCA of Montclair about their childcare experiences, and visited Head Start Community Program of Morris County to discuss how funding cuts could impact their services. She has also introduced the Child Care for Every Community Act — which is modeled after Head Start and the military’s child care program. The bill would ensure that no family has to pay more than seven percent of their income toward child care expenses.

How parents can ensure children with IEP’s get a good start in the new school year

Posted on September 8, 2023


By Nina Peckman, Esq.
ACNJ Staff Attorney
Specialized in Education Law


The school year has begun and I am already getting calls from parents with concerns about IEP implementation issues or about a lack of progress. Parents should not hesitate to contact their child’s study team (CST) case manager with any concerns and make a written request for a meeting. This can include concerns about how the latest IEP will be implemented or if you do not agree with everything in the latest IEP. You can request a short IEP review meeting at any time. Typically, a meeting four to six weeks after school starts would allow time to assess how the IEP is working.

Here are some factors to keep in mind in speaking with the child study team:

  • Has your child received any new diagnosis or change in medication? Remember to provide any updates to the CST with a copy of new relevant evaluation reports/medications. A meeting may be necessary to discuss potential IEP changes and modifications to the IEP.
  • Be sure to check your child’s IEP to see whether your child is due for CST re-evaluations – all the evaluations should be repeated at least every three years. Re-evaluations help ensure a child will progress. If they weren’t done or are due by January 2024, write to the case manager to request a meeting to discuss re-evaluations and sign consent forms.

Tips for 8th Graders and High School Students 

Students approaching high school should begin receiving special education transition services to start planning for life after high school. Eighth graders interested in a vocational high school should find out NOW about the application process. In some counties, the deadline is December 31st.  Be sure to discuss transition services at the annual review. If your child is 16, a transition plan should already be implemented.

Parents and students should know the graduation requirements, which should be found in the code of conduct.  Students can fail classes due to excessive absences leading to loss of credits.  To ensure your child is on track to graduate on time, request written confirmation of the student’s credit status from the CST case manager and guidance counselor. Meet with the CST case manager to agree on a written plan for how to make up loss of credits/ failed classes and to address reasons behind absences.

Is your student nearing high school graduation? By 11th grade, start getting information about school and community college prep resources from the guidance counselor and CST case manager.  Speak with the disability offices of colleges/adult vocational programs to see if they provide the necessary supports. Note that some students may be eligible and benefit greatly from staying in school for one or more years through age 21. The annual review should include a discussion of program options after 12th grade, including options outside the high school.  Parents may challenge a CST’s decision that a student is ready to graduate by filing for due process if this dispute cannot be resolved informally.

The most important things to ensure your child has a successful year is to first, stay informed and contact your child’s CST case manager as soon as you have a concern or need to provide updates. Second, know your child’s education rights and joe best to advocate for your child. Be sure to make any requests for meetings in writing. If you have any questions contact Nina Peckman at npeckman@acnj.org. For more information on education resources to help children with special needs and struggling students click here.

Honoring the Legacy of Lt. Gov. Sheila Y. Oliver

Posted on August 2, 2023

Lt. Gov. Sheila Y. Oliver speaking at the 2021 Aletha R. Wright Award ceremony.
Lt. Gov. Sheila Y. Oliver speaking at the 2021 Aletha R. Wright Award ceremony.
Lt. Gov. Sheila Y. Oliver with ACNJ Senior Policy Analyst and 2021 Aletha R. Wright Award recipient Cynthia Rice.
Lt. Gov. Sheila Y. Oliver with ACNJ Senior Policy Analyst and 2021 Aletha R. Wright Award recipient Cynthia Rice.

In loving memory of Lieutenant Governor Sheila Oliver, the first Black woman to serve as Speaker of the Assembly and later as New Jersey's first Black woman Lieutenant Governor, the Staff and Board of Trustees of Advocates for Children of New Jersey (ACNJ) join in honoring her remarkable legacy.

Sheila Oliver was a formidable advocate for all children and youth in New Jersey. Her passion and dedication were especially evident in her efforts to improve the lives of children growing up in foster care and to divert young people away from the juvenile justice system. With an unwavering commitment to these vulnerable populations, she tirelessly worked to ensure their well-being and a brighter future.

As a role model for all elected officials, Sheila Oliver embodied the virtues of compassion, empathy, and genuine concern for her constituents. Her approach to public service was characterized by active listening and a sincere desire to help those in need, leaving a lasting impact on the lives of countless individuals.

The loss of Lieutenant Governor Oliver is deeply felt by the people of New Jersey. She was not only a leader but also a true friend to many, and her contributions to the state and its children will be remembered with universal respect and affection.

During this time of sorrow, ACNJ offers its sincere condolences to her family and friends. May they find comfort in knowing that her legacy will continue to live on, inspiring others to follow in her footsteps and continue the vital work she championed.

In celebrating a life well-lived, may we all take inspiration from Lieutenant Governor Sheila Oliver's dedication to the betterment of society and carry her vision forward, striving for a more just and compassionate world for our children and future generations.

Watch the Recording: ACNJ/NJ DCF 2023 Summer Forum

Posted on July 25, 2023

Each year, Advocates for Children of New Jersey (ACNJ) and the New Jersey Department of Children and Families (NJ DCF) team up to share with stakeholders the latest news and events impacting children and families in the child welfare system. During this forum, key leaders discuss the recently approved fiscal 2024 budget, the NJ Statewide Student Support Services’ (NJ4S) launch, the Sibling Bill of Rights’ implementation, updates from the Staffing and Oversight Review Subcommittee (SORS), and more.