While many of Norwescap’s team members who work with young children and families may be familiar with ACEs, it is not a well-known acronym. ACEs stands for Adverse Childhood Experiences, a concept coined in the early 1990s to recognize a nationwide problem. The focus in on a range of traumas impacting a child, how those traumas might follow them through life, and the means to neutralize trauma with positive experiences, nurturing support, and loving relationships. Some of the most common ACEs include poverty, divorce/separation, neglect, and physical or emotional abuse, any of which contribute to significant challenges into adulthood, such as continued poverty, mental illness, social maladjustment, and poor health. Once there is an understanding of ACEs, it’s easy to see how Norwescap fits in to this. Our holistic approach as a large non-profit Community Action Partnership is committed to resolving the adversities our participants experience, ACEs being a large part of them.
When the State of New Jersey sought to create a regional collaborative to combat the potentially life-altering disruptions of ACEs, it is not surprising to know that Norwescap was selected to assist. The state established the Regional ACEs Collaborative (RAC) in 2021 under the direction of the Office of Resilience and in partnership with the Department of Children and Families to address ACEs and to seek innovative approaches that help children and families to achieve resiliency. Norwescap, already having many community-based programs in Somerset and Hunterdon counties, was chosen to lead the “Central Hub,” which also includes Mercer, Middlesex, Monmouth, Ocean and Union counties.
ACEs is a cycle that’s difficult to break. Norwescap will head up efforts in our hub to engage community organizations anywhere children and families mingle or spend time.
In all, the Regional ACEs Collaborative (RAC) consists of three hubs, appointed earlier this year. In addition to Norwescap as the central hub, there is CUMAC in the North and ACENDA Integrated Health in South Jersey.
Each hub received $1 million dollars from the State, with parameters that are defined by community needs and available funds with distribution going out as ‘microgrants’. The microgrant awards will be issued through each of the three organizations based on applications that best illustrate need, creativity, and collaboration.
Once Norwescap started their outreach for ideas and inventive solutions, over 50 microgrant applications poured in with great concepts from colleges, neighborhood organizations, parent teacher associations, scouts, pet therapy, clergy, church groups, and more. This outreach went to community partners, such as local businesses, organizations, and individuals. Additionally, we also asked community members, both adults and teens, to reach out if interested and willing to devote a few hours each month to review proposals and help build strategies to make a difference. At Norwescap, we know it is important to raise awareness around ACEs and create a network of support for the recipients of the microgrant program, so this endeavor enlisted much of our Child & Family Resource Services team.
ACEs is a national issue, and an issue that affects all of us in some way. We are delighted that the State of New Jersey has created the Office of Resilience to address the multi-generational effects of ACEs, and we are honored to have been selected to lead the central region in this initiative.
The current round of applicants submitted proposals for an array of programs. Here is a list of some of the creative & innovative ideas:
- Mercer County – access to affirming social support groups for LGBTQ+ identified youth of color living in low-income neighborhoods
- Ocean County – an arts-based healing centered engagement framework to support children and adults
- Hunterdon County – using Equine Assisted Psychotherapy, youths are able to gain insight into their own behaviors through different activities done with horses
- Monmouth County – utilizing a sensory garden with a collection of plants that appeal to one or more of the five senses, accessible for all people to enjoy, especially those with sensory processing issues, including autism and post-traumatic stress disorder
- Somerset County – support the development of underserved children into strong citizens by utilizing science and instilling the positive values of play and sports through achievements in teamwork, work ethic, leadership, and respect
- Union County — services that prioritize therapy, well-being, and fun, giving both hope and promise to those youth trying to deal with adverse life experiences
- Middlesex County – help adolescents learn self-discipline, motivate them to change their perspective and work through challenges using essential tools instilled in them to make better choices and succeed in life
Throughout August 2022, reviews will take place before an Innovation Grant Review Board (IGRB). Norwescap, CUMAC and ACENDA as the now-established NJ RAC, each created these boards to establish the distribution of awards.
In summary, these microgrants are an excellent way to reach the possibly untapped resources in New Jersey because they will reach the community leaders, members, local businesses, academic partners, and more that typically may not have access to state funding or grant opportunities. The new Norwescap RAC is here to provide guidance in grant applications, connecting individuals, businesses, and organizations in meaningful ways for sustainable partnerships, and offer training and technical assistance in building healing communities. This is a revolutionary opportunity to make a difference in our communities, in our state, and in the lives of individuals, children and families. We look forward to these partnerships that encourage a sustainable community outside of the typical service provision area.
Want more information about this important initiative? Contact our team at firstname.lastname@example.org.