With the February 4 release of a statewide action plan, New Jersey passed a major milestone on its way to becoming a nationwide a leader in protecting and helping children and adults heal from Adverse Childhood Experiences, or ACEs—stressful and traumatic events occurring before age that can cause lifelong health and social challenges. The Nicholson Foundation has been working with the New Jersey Department of Children and Families (DCF), the Burke Foundation, and the Turrell Fund on ACEs-related mitigation activities since 2018, and to date has invested $3.5 million toward this effort, including development of the action plan.
The newly released ACEs action plan—created in collaboration with DCF, the three foundation partners, and the Center for Health Care Strategies—will be implemented by the New Jersey Office of Resilience, led by Executive Director Dave Ellis.
“The action plan is the culmination of several years of intensive work, much of it informed by what was learned from people in communities most impacted by ACEs. The implementation phase that will follow represents the next key step in this major public-private partnership to make New Jersey one of the best states in the nation for raising children,” said Arturo Brito, Executive Director, The Nicholson Foundation.
Among the reasons this work is so critical and why the action plan is so urgently needed, ACEs affect more than 40 percent of children in New Jersey across all socio-economic strata. At the same time, rates of exposure to adverse experiences are higher in the state for children of color and for children living in poverty. Research shows that ACEs can be neutralized by positive experiences and loving relationships, and that with compassionate, nurturing support, people can achieve resilience—the process of adapting and overcoming in the face of adversity.
To achieve that goal, the plan contains five core strategies that aim to greatly reduce ACEs in New Jersey:
1. Achieve Trauma-Informed and Healing-Centered State Designation
2. Conduct an ACEs Public Awareness and Mobilization Campaign
3. Conduct an ACEs Public Awareness and Mobilization Campaign
4. Provide Cross-Sector ACEs Training
5. Promote Trauma-Informed and Healing-Centered Services and Supports
By working together to implement, monitor, and evaluate the action plan, New Jersey will reduce the effects of toxic stress and create a brighter future where children thrive in supportive relationships and healthy environments.