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Legislative win to be celebrated in New York on ACEs Awareness Day April 30

 

When advocates gather (virtually) to commemorate ACEs Awareness Day on April 30, there will be lots to celebrate—most specifically, the inclusion of language about ACEs in the FY 21-22 New York State budget (see attached document for the link to the budget and ACEs text).

It calls for mandated reporters to be educated about “ACEs, the importance of protective factors and the availability of services for children at risk for suffering from ACEs.” It also requires the Office of Child and Family Services to implement a statewide campaign to reach parents and others in positions to impact children and families.

This legislative “win” builds on past successes, including the enactment of bills (click here for ACEs Connection article) to require ACEs training for domestic violence and child care workers in 2019, authored and led by Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi, chair of the Assembly Committee on Children and Families. Unfortunately, while no funds have been allocated for the development of materials, advocates say that they can build on prior work and commitment to fill the void. For additional background on this initiative, see the ACEs Connection article “New York lawmaker leads effort to fund training of mandated reporters about childhood trauma.

Prevent Child Abuse New York (PCANY) played a major role in building support for these measures.  Jenn O’Connor, director of policy and advocacy for PCANY, sees this win as part of the slow and steady process to educate legislators and their staffs about PACEs (referred to as ACEs and protective factors in NY) and build on each gain over years. The hard work of educating the Legislature paid off in this instance when a staff member suggested including the legislative language in the budget rather than in a freestanding bill, a development that would not have occurred without the prior conversations about ACEs. O’Connor references the well-known quote “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity” when she describes how this budget strategy unfolded, saying advocates have been working toward these successes for over a decade.

The budget also includes a major investment in child care and universal pre-K, made possible in part by an infusion of federal aid included in the American Rescue Plan Act.  The statewide public awareness campaign about ACEs targeting child care providers, school districts, and pediatric health care providers comes at an opportune time for the infusion of trauma-informed principles in child care and early education. Hevesi said in his 15 years in the Assembly, he has “never seen a budget that goes as far as this year’s to assist New York’s children and families” and highlighted child care as the “hottest topic for helping families this year.” Read more in an article New York Budget Embraces ‘Extraordinary’ Expansion of Child Care and Pre-K in The Imprint.

O’Connor envisions a “trauma-informed Legislature” in New York where elected officials view legislative proposals through a trauma-informed lens as a matter of course. She reports that to date, she and her staff have had fruitful conversations with nearly 200 of the 213-member Legislature and are identifying new champions every day. The ACEs Awareness Day event on April 30  will provide another opportunity to build momentum towards embedding PACEs in statewide policy.

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