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New Report Offers 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).
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.
“These recommendations come at a critical time as our state and nation grapple with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. New Jersey families, particularly those with very young children, have been hit hard,” said Cecilia Zalkind, ACNJ president and CEO. “The recommended services outlined in Unlocking Potential have been a lifeline for many children and families, but unfortunately, too few have been able to benefit from these vital programs, adding to the existing burdens many families experience.”
By 2023, the Pritzker Children’s Initiative is challenging New Jersey to meet the following benchmarks:
- 8,750 more infants and toddlers will have access to high-quality subsidized child care.
- 9,867 more low-income families will receive evidence-based home visiting.
- 7,247 more low-income infants and toddlers will receive mental health services annually to support optimal social-emotional development.
- 3,000 more low-income women will receive prenatal supports and services annually.
Developed by a team of public and private sector leaders and supported by early childhood experts from across the state, Unlocking Potential calls for improved coordination and alignment among government agencies, early childhood organizations and maternal and infant health initiatives that serve children ages 0 to 3.
“The report emphasizes that we all have a role in tackling racial, economic and geographic disparities that begin prenatally. The current landscape presents an opportunity for state leaders to leverage this moment and re-examine the systems designed to support early child development and rebuild a more effective, efficient and well-funded system of early care and education," said Zalkind. "Now is the time to examine the cracks in the foundation and bolster the existing support systems so that every baby has a chance to thrive right from the start."
- 35 percent of children, ages 0 to 3, live in low-income families.
- 35 percent of expectant black mothers and 30 percent of expectant Hispanic mothers receive late or no prenatal care.
- Babies born to black mothers are three times more likely to die before their first birthday.
- New Jersey ranks 47th in maternal deaths (2019). On average, 46.4 New Jersey women die for every 100,000 live births, compared to 29.6 nationally. Among black women, the disparity is even greater, with 132 deaths for every 100,000 live births compared to white maternal rates (35 deaths for every 100,000 live births).
- Fewer than 2 percent of New Jersey’s 310,000 children under age 3 benefit from state-funded home visiting services.
- 73 percent of working families likely to need care for their infant or toddler do not have access to licensed child care.
“Prior to the pandemic, the Murphy administration made several investments focused on families with young children. The First Lady’s Nurture NJ campaign also provided a public platform highlighting racial maternal and infant health disparities,” Zalkind said. “And during the current health crisis, we have seen the state respond with a sense of urgency to provide necessary supports and services to children and families, such as emergency child care. This is encouraging, as we know strong public investment is vital to ensuring babies have essential services to ensure their success in life.”
“We are pleased to partner with New Jersey leaders in moving forward their prenatal-to-three agenda. Their commitment to ending racial disparities and expanding much needed services and supports for infants and toddlers and their families will assure that New Jersey is a great state to raise a child,” said Gerry Cobb, Director of the Pritzker Children's Initiative.
Last year, the Garden State 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.
Advocates for Children of New Jersey
Advocates for Children of New Jersey is a statewide child research and action organization. ACNJ works with local, state and federal leaders to identify and implement changes that will benefit New Jersey's children. For more information, visit acnj.org.
Pritzker Children’s Initiative
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 at http://pritzkerchildrensinitiative.org/