February 2012 E-news
Director's Message: Giving Children the Gift of Reading
By Cecilia Zalkind
I recently had the opportunity to present the keynote speech at the United Way of Essex and West Hudson’s Celebrity Read kickoff. Held at the Newark Museum, it was an inspiring event, attended by everyday heroes who give their time to read to children in some of New Jersey’s poorest cities, instilling in them a love of reading that lasts a lifetime.
I had the task of presenting sobering data about the lack of reading proficiency among Newark’s 3rd graders, with only 38 percent reading on target, significantly reducing their chances of graduating from high school.
Tax Time Means Tax Credits for Low-Income Families
Married couples with three or more children earning up to $49,078 may qualify for valuable state and federal tax credits. Federal credits range from $464 to $5,751 and state credits range from $92 to $1,150.
The NJ Department of Human Services has a web page that provides all the qualifying information and a link to an IRS calculator to determine eligibility at www.njeitc.org. Please share with your networks.
NJ Slips on School Breakfast
Outpaced by progress in other states, New Jersey slipped to 48th in national rankings for serving school breakfast to low-income children, many of whom come to school hungry and unable to concentrate on their school work, according to the Food Reseach and Action Center’s annual school breakfast report card.
Last year, New Jersey ranked 46th.
Our Food for Thought School Breakfast campaign is aimed at changing that. We’ve already seen some great progress over the last few months and expect more school districts to implement “after the bell” breakfast, which sharply increases student participation in this critical child nutrition program. Local coalitions are forming to advocate on the local level. If you’re interested in getting involved, e-mail email@example.com.
Read FRAC’s school breakfast report.
New Child Abuse Findings System Proposed
The NJ Division of Youth and Family Services is proposing to adopt a 4-tiered findings system for child abuse/neglect investigations. The “substantiated” and “unfounded” categories would remain, but the definitions would change.
Founded would be used only for severe abuse or neglect or where there is ongoing danger to children. Unfounded would mean that a child was not harmed or that the parent was not involved. Two new categories would be added: “established” and “not established.” Established would mean that a child was abused or neglected but the incident was not severe enough to warrant a perpetrator be placed on the child abuse registry, while “not established” would mean that an investigator could not prove that abuse or neglect occurred, but had concerns over the child’s well-being.
The changes are being proposed through regulations. A deadline for comments has not yet been announced.
Read the proposed rule change.
NJ Lawmakers Lauded for Making Kids a Priority
New Jersey’s two U.S. Senators – Robert Menendez and Frank Lautenberg – and five members of Congress – Rush Holt, Frank Pallone, Donald Payne, Steven Rothman and Christopher Smith – were named as leaders in taking on issues important to children in 2011. First Focus’ Campaign for Children noted leaders who introduced, co-sponsored and voted for legislation to meet children’s needs.
To learn more, visit First Focus' Campaign for Children
New ACNJ Board Members
ACNJ welcomes two new members -- Claire Sapienza-Eck and Brenda Considine -- to its Board of Trustees.
Claire is a long-term employee of South Jersey Healthcare (SJH), having worked for SJH for more than 17 years, starting as a Director and progressing to Vice President. Clare also has considerable clinical experience, having worked as an occupational therapist prior to receiving her MBA/MHA and transitioning into healthcare administration. Clare serves on a variety of committees, including the New Jersey Hospital Association Policy Development Committee, the UMDNJ/School of Osteopathic Medicine Advisory Board and the United Way of Cumberland County, among others.
Brenda is a partner at Considine Communications Strategies. She has worked in government relations and policy development since 1985. Brenda began her career at the Center for Outreach Services to the Autism Community (now Autism NJ), where she was appointed its first Director of Legislative Affairs, influencing policy at the state and federal levels. She later served as Director of Government Affairs at The Arc of New Jersey, where she coordinated statewide grassroots education and activism programs. She successfully lobbied for the passage of New Jersey’s Family Support Act, the closure of state institutions for people with disabilites, and for a Bond Act for community-based housing. Brenda continues to chair the New Jersey Coaltion for Special Education Funding Reform.
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