The chair of the New York State Assembly Committee on Children and Families, Andrew Hevesi, along with other Assembly colleagues and members of the Senate and child and family advocates, are working to push a budget proposal across the finish line—possibly within the next 10 days—to make a small investment that could have big impact on addressing the trauma experienced by children and families during the pandemic. Senator Jamaal T. Bailey is leading the effort in the Senate.
Assemblyman Hevesi has become a key ACEs champion within the New York legislature, leveraging his committee chairmanship to advance legislation and sharing his knowledge and passion with colleagues to heighten awareness of how ACEs can impact children’s lifelong health and wellbeing.
The legislation requires trauma-informed practice training for all mandated reporters and provides funds to create and disseminate trauma-informed materials to those mandated reporters to share with their clients, patients, and parents. Jenn O’Connor, Director of Policy and Advocacy for Prevent Child Abuse New York (PCANY), says that advocates are asking for the inclusion of $200,000 as part of the FY 21-22 Budget, a sufficient amount since much of the training content has already been developed for other sectors. Legislation to require ACEs training for domestic violence and childcare workers authored by Hevesi was enacted in 2020 (Click here for an PACEs Connection story on the bills). He says these bills were the first use of the term “ACEs” in New York law.
To build momentum for the budget legislation, a Zoom press conference (Click here to watch the 1 hour and 20 minute event) led by Hevesi was held March 18 . Remarks were made by elected officials and child and family advocates including including PCANY, represented by the Executive Director, Timothy Hathaway. O’Connor described the press conference as “amazing” because participants, including elected officials, revealed their personal struggles during the pandemic and their own childhood experiences with passion and conviction. She said the advantage of the virtual format was that it made the event accessible to people all over the state, including New York City, which is often seen as a “heavy lift” because of the two- to three-hour travel time to Albany.
In addition to planting seeds for future media coverage on ACEs, O’Connor says just having a press conference with elected officials (so far there are 666 views of the event) elevates the ACEs issue and increases legislators’ knowledge and understanding of how addressing ACEs can save public dollars over time and improve the lives of their constituents. As follow-up to the news conference, PCANY sent a one-pager (attached) on the issue to all members of the legislature. This one-pager as well as the press release on the March 18 press conference (attached) give additional exposure to the issue, providing facts and personal stories to make the case for embedding ACEs into public policy.
The day before the press conference, Hevesi addressed his colleagues on the floor of the Assembly (Click here for the 15-minute video) and highlighted the impact of the pandemic on the state’s children and families over this past year—325,000 kids have reached or fallen below the poverty line, skyrocketing increases in rates of domestic violence, child abuse and other ACEs, and from March through July alone, 4,200 kids experienced the loss of a caregiver. He said the state must provide the necessary resources—not budget cuts—to support families, including safe and affordable childcare, and that we finally begin to address childhood trauma and its far reaching impacts.
Nothing is certain in the legislative process but Jenn O’Connor and others are hopeful that there will be concrete results to celebrate as part of Child Abuse Awareness month in April and a specific victory to acknowledge on April 30, the official "ACEs Awareness Day" in New York.