During a March 11 virtual NJ Spotlight News roundtable, a panel of experts, including Dr. Arturo Brito, The Nicholson Foundation’s Executive Director, discussed the role everyone in New Jersey—from community residents to government officials—can play in implementing the new statewide ACEs Action Plan. The plan is a comprehensive roadmap to help New Jersey address Adverse Childhood Experiences (stressful and traumatic events occurring before age 18 that can cause lifelong health and social challenges).
Lilo Stainton, NJ Spotlight News Healthcare Writer, moderated the discussion, which also included: Dave Ellis, Executive Director of the New Jersey Children and Family Service (DCF) Office of Resilience; Ashanti D. Jones, Community Engagement Manager, New Jersey Institute for Social Justice; and Alisha De Lorenzo, Interim Deputy Director, Garden State Equality. Christine Norbut Beyer, DCF Commissioner, made opening remarks.
Studies show 40 percent of New Jersey children have experienced traumas or other adverse experiences — like abuse, poverty, divorce and death — that can have long-term, even generational, impact on their health and well-being.
The Nicholson Foundation, which has been working with DCF, the Burke Foundation, and the Turrell Fund on ACEs-related mitigation activities since 2018, has so far invested $3.5 million toward this work, including development of the Action Plan. Dr. Brito described this effort as an “equal partnership between state government, the private sector, which is not just limited to philanthropy—or should not just be limited to philanthropy—and community.” He added that the Foundation and its partners have been working on this for nearly three years and “we’ve incorporated and involved community at every step of the way to make sure that those most impacted by childhood trauma have a voice.”
To underscore the important contributions from the community during the plan’s development, Office of Resilience Executive Director Ellis commented that anyone looking through its 47 pages, “is going to find language directly from the community itself. So this is not something that was created in a vacuum, and that’s part of what makes it really so special…This plan was designed by the community and it is designed in such a way that the community is leading (and) that they are now decision-makers in the process of how services serve them.”
Watch a replay of the NJ Spotlight News panel discussion: