Dear NJ Resiliency Coalition Community Members,
One of my favorite quotes is from Maya Angelou. She said “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” This statement gives permission and grace for us to change our thinking, change policies, and change the world we live in.
During my earlier work as an Assistant Commissioner with the Department of Children and Families (NJ DCF), and then in my work at Casey Family Programs, research about adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) was underway. Those of us in child welfare began learning and training in ACEs and their impact on individuals and families.
Understanding ACEs and the internal hold they can have on children and families is fundamental for anyone that serves them. Trauma is a powerful force. But, so is healing, and resilience.
Recognizing the importance of this work in the child welfare arena, NJ DCF has taken steps to begin the discussion on how we can help strengthen families and mitigate the negative effects of childhood adversity.
We know that the presence of a single caring adult can sometimes make a world of difference and can help children avoid the long-term effects of ACEs. We have increased our focus on maltreatment prevention, preferring to support the families we meet before a crisis occurs, rather than respond after one occurs. We have promoted the use of kinship placements, connecting children that have experienced trauma with a relative caregiver or family friend who is invested in their healing.
We have adopted a healing-centered, trauma-competent approach to our work, asking the question "What happened to you?" rather than "What’s wrong with you?" and we strive to leave every person we connect with better than when we met them.
We are also giving families greater voice in our policies and practice, to learn from their collective experiences and refocus our mission to meet families where they are, without judgement.
During these challenging times — a global pandemic, long-standing institutionalized racial inequities, financial, food and housing insecurity — the importance of mental health and emotional resilience is even more vital.
That is why I am incredibly excited about this new online community. I believe that together, we can create meaningful change to reduce the impact of childhood adversity. Together, we will use an all-of-state approach to support and empower families to prevent and mitigate ACEs.
Thank you for your support and partnership.
Christine Norbut Beyer, MSW
Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Children and Families