Project HOPE Consortium Shared Geography: New Jersey
RWJF funds a Consortium of three grantees to implement Project HOPE (Harnessing Opportunity for Positive Equitable Early Childhood Development) in New Jersey: Nemours Children’s Health System, the BUILD Initiative, and BMC Vital Village NOW. The Consortium supports and provides technical assistance to both a state team and community leaders to develop plans to address inequities impacting young children and families through cross-sector work. New Jersey’s cross-sector state team is the Interdepartmental Planning Group (IPG), consisting of the administrators from each of the state’s departments with oversight of programs and services for children from pregnancy to age eight. The IPG consists of administrators from the Department of Children and Families (Division of Family and Community Partnerships, Division of Family Development, Division of Early Childhood Education, Office of Licensing, Head Start Collaboration Office), Department of Labor and Workforce Development, Department of Health, etc.
At the community level in NJ, HOPE is focused on two targeted communities, Bridgeton and Atlantic City, identified by the IPG, as well as Essex County Council for Young Children. Currently, the IPG is engaging Bridgeton and Atlantic City in site visits to learn from communities their experiences with state-funded services, and is seeking to build feedback loops. The IPG has been analyzing the qualitative data collected during these community visits along with state and local quantitative data to identify opportunities to improve policies and practices to increase access to programs or services, and to build the capacity of county councils to better support and advocate for children and families. Based on their analysis, IPG leaders selected health and child care as the two focus issues for moving program, practice and policy change agenda forward in Atlantic City and Bridgeton. At the state level there are health and child care strategies that can be targeted and leveraged in Atlantic City and Bridgeton. There will also be intersections with Labor to increase access to a range of training and employment reassures including paid family leave benefits. Strategies and initiatives are aimed at reducing infant and maternal mortality, as well as efforts to improve access to quality subsidized and non-subsidized child care. The IPG identified that the two focus areas will require both strengthening intersecting state and local efforts in both communities, and strengthening existing service quality accountability mechanisms in each community, including reinforcing feedback loops through the County Councils for Young Children.
The Essex County Council for Young Children (ECCYC) is one of the 21 county councils statewide. Its goal is to strengthen collaboration between parents and community stakeholders focusing on health, early care and education, and safety. This is a great model that has actualized this vision of shared parent leadership. The health committee of ECCYC has implemented Project HOPE Newark dedicated to early education and care around ACEs and trauma; their goal is to make Newark a trauma-informed early care and education community.