Helping New Jersey’s Children

Child walking across street holding parent's hand.

Grow NJ Kids is a statewide initiative dedicated to improving the quality of child care and early learning across New Jersey.  It helps child care and early learning programs assess and enhance their programs, and it offers families a rating system to help them make the best child care choices for their children.

With help from a $200,000 sub-award from Prevent Child Abuse New Jersey for the NJ Department of Human Services-funded Grow NJ Kids, Gerard Costa, director of Montclair State’s Center for Autism and Early Childhood Mental Health, has been providing support for Grow NJ Kids-engaged centers. From November 2015 through June 2016, Costa partnered with Prevent Child Abuse New Jersey and four regional technical assistance centers to provide support to Grow NJ Kids-engaged centers in the areas of socio-emotional development and the promotion of inclusion.

“This is a game-changing opportunity for us that will let us help people keep the welfare of babies and children fully in mind.”
–Gerard Costa

“Our Center for Autism and Early Childhood Mental Health conducted three-day long training sessions with 40 statewide technical assistance specialists from the four regional centers,” recalls Costa. “Our goal was to help them better understand and support social and emotional development and the inclusion of all children.”

Center staff also spearheaded the development of specialized screening tools that measure the performance of Grow Kids NJ—engaged centers and identify those centers needing additional help in meeting social and emotional development and inclusion goals.

“We developed customized sub-strands of two standard assessment scales, the Early Childhood Environmental Rating Scale III and the Infant-Toddler Environmental Rating Sale IT-REV,” Costa explains. “It’s like a triage system, as we can use this to readily identify the centers that need the most help.

“This is a game-changing opportunity for us that will let us help people keep the welfare of babies and children fully in mind.”