Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) — such as abuse, neglect, exposure to violence, and family dysfunction — are linked to negative impacts on child development and can lead to profound, long-term health and social outcomes. With this understanding, states are beginning to launch coordinated efforts aimed at preventing these exposures and mitigating their influence on children’s health and well-being.
In New Jersey, over 40 percent of children — more than 782,000 — are estimated to have experienced at least one ACE, and 18 percent are estimated to have experienced multiple ACEs. Three foundations with a deep commitment to the state — The Burke Foundation, The Nicholson Foundation, and Turrell Fund — formed the NJ Funders ACEs Collaborative (the Collaborative) to support programs that benefit vulnerable children and families across the state. As a foundational step, the Collaborative commissioned a comprehensive analysis to better understand the impact of ACEs in New Jersey and identify key opportunities for addressing the prevalence of ACEs and reducing their lasting effects.
With support from the Collaborative, the Center for Health Care Strategies (CHCS) partnered with the NJ Department of Children and Families and the Office of Resilience in bringing together stakeholders from across New Jersey to inform a statewide ACEs Action Plan focused on addressing, preventing, and healing from the impact of ACEs. CHCS, in collaboration with human-centered design consultant Looking Glass Strategy, convened a series of focus groups with key constituencies — families and caregivers, health, education, business, child and family services, policymakers, law enforcement and the judicial system, and community leaders — whose perspectives were essential to building a comprehensive approach to addressing ACEs. While specific to the New Jersey landscape, the final action plan is publicly available to support other stakeholders across the country who are considering similar statewide initiatives.
In 2021, CHCS received direct funding from the State of New Jersey to provide assistance to the newly established Office of Resilience in implementing the statewide action plan. And in 2022, CHCS received additional funding through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to continue supporting the State of New Jersey in its efforts to improve data collection and analysis of ACEs prevalence in the state and implement prevention efforts.