NEW JERSEY – As part of the week Walk around New Jersey event hosted by Advocates for Children of New Jersey (ACNJ) May 23-27, New Jersey parents met with state officials to tell them what babies need to succeed in the Garden State throughout the May. This annual advocacy event aims to raise awareness of the needs of children ages prenatal through three, and their caregivers, so that the state’s children can thrive and become productive adults.
“The Murphy administration has shown an exceptional commitment to children, but we still have work to do to make New Jersey the safest place to give birth and raise a family,” said Cecilia Zalkind, president. and CEO of ACNJ. “Today we enter our fifth annual Strolling Thunder event aimed at telling lawmakers we want them thinking babies and taking action, committing to our littlest residents by funding vital programs for infants and toddlers. toddlers.”
This week, parents and caregivers across the state will rally for babies via social media and send letters to their representatives in support of the children. Already, parents like Rose-Anne of Jersey City have met with their lawmakers to discuss what parents and children need, like affordable, quality child care — an issue that has captured national attention. these last months. “Our most recent and challenging part of raising children has been ensuring high-quality childcare and amid concerns about pandemic policies, curricula and academic excellence aimed at preparing children in the future of work and in the real world,” she explains. “We have tried various childcare options including home daycare, private daycare, live in nanny…. We need help, solutions and support.
Parents are also speaking out at the federal level. Last week, Destiney Baxter of Woodbridge brought her son, Joseph, to meet with the offices of Congressman Pallone and Senator Menendez to share her experience as an infant/toddler daycare teacher and mother-of-one. -little in daycare as part of Strolling Thunder hosted by the national non-profit organization ZERO TO THREE. She also discussed the need to strengthen paid family leave policies so parents can bond with their child after birth, the need for better compensation for early childhood educators and teachers, and child care children more affordable for families. “As an infant and toddler teacher, I was able to secure a place for my son in quality child care. I get a 50% discount since my son frequents where I work. But even with all of this, affording childcare is still difficult and paying for it takes up a lot of my salary. We need to ensure sustained and strong funding for child care to help support a stronger and fairer child care system for working families like mine.
Over the past month, 18 parents have met virtually with their lawmakers to discuss how best to help babies and their families. Although each parent had unique stories and experiences, they shared common goals. Each expressed that they wanted to see the Murphy administration:
- Cap childbirth costs,
- Expand insurance coverage for pre- and post-natal care for doctors, midwives and doulas,
- Extend paid parental leave in time and pay,
- Expand and extend childcare hours to ensure programs are suitable for working parents,
- Provide better access to maternal mental health services, such as home visits,
- Expand mental health services for infants and toddlers, including early intervention,
- And make sure childcare is a public good because it is the foundation of lifelong learning.
“We’re proud of the steps New Jersey has already taken to help families, but we also recognize the steps we need to take to grow,” Zalkind says. “Currently, the child care industry is in danger of collapsing if support is not offered to parents and providers. We’re proud that New Jersey is the second state in the nation to offer universal home visits to all parents, but we need to make sure the program is both accessible and sustainable. Black babies are twice as likely to die before their first birthday compared to the state average — a staggering number. The data is clear – in order to give children the opportunity to thrive, we must start with babies.
Those interested in participating in Strolling Thunder New Jersey can visit https://acnj.org/strolling-thunder-new-jersey-2022/ for more information.
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About the Children’s Advocates of New Jersey (ACNJ): The work of Advocates for Children of New Jersey as an independent, nonprofit organization has resulted in better laws and policies, more effective funding, and stronger services for children and families, empowering more children a chance to grow up safe, healthy and educated. We work closely with state and federal lawmakers and policymakers to strengthen their understanding and response to the needs of children and families. To learn more, visit acnj.org