The New Jersey Parents’ Caucus (NJPC) is a non-profit organization primarily governed and staffed by parents and caregivers of children with emotional and behavioral challenges. The organization was established in 1990 when a group of concerned parents raising children with special needs came together to create changes to the public systems that served their children. For more than 20 years, the New Jersey Parents’ Caucus has worked diligently with parents, caregivers, family members, other family organizations, government agencies, active legislators, and interested professionals throughout New Jersey to insure that the state addressed the special needs of families raising children with emotional, behavioral and mental health challenges.
Family involvement is critical for youth who are involved with the juvenile justice system. Youth and parents need information, training, services and support to help them become knowledgeable about the juvenile justice system and effective advocates for themselves and their children. At the same time, juvenile justice systems need to ensure that their policies and procedures support family and youth involvement and that staff are trained to better understand the family perspective, the benefits of family and youth involvement, and specific strategies for engaging parents and youth. The services provided by NJYJI are particularly timely, coming in the wake of a new paradigm for sentencing youth in the adult system laid out by the United States Supreme Court in J.D.B. v. North Carolina (2011) in which the court recognized that children do not have the full capacity to exercise mature judgment.
NJYJI represents a new frontier in the family movement, as it establishes a formalized support network for families raising justice-involved youth. Currently, there is no organization in the state of New Jersey providing this type of support to parents, family members, incarcerated youth or criminal defense practitioners. NJPC founded the initiative to fill this void and provide unique family-driven solutions. By addressing youth and family needs with support from the time of sentencing through reentry to the community, we enhance the quality of juvenile representation, provide supportive services for families and improve outcomes for NJ’s justice-involved youth.
To date, NJPC has been able to reach over 3,922 parents and caregivers of more than 5,600 children and youth. Of those parents trained, NJPC has certified over 1,973 parents as trainers, representing more than 20,000 training hours, in NJ through a myriad of programs and supportive services offered through NJPC’s NJ Model of Parent Empowerment and Collaboration. The model includes training and education provided through the NJPC’s Parents’ Empowerment Academy©, a comprehensive, parent-driven training and education program, curriculum and program offerings.
- Enables parents and caregivers of children with emotional and behavioral challenges to appropriately and collaboratively negotiate with government agencies and other system partners
- Provides the opportunity for parents to strengthen their knowledge of the systems that serve their families and their rights and responsibilities within those systems
- Offers parents, caregiversnand professionals a thorough understanding of children’s mental health disorders, NJ’s community-based services, and medications associated with childhood disorders
- Assists professionals in understanding the reality of raising a child with an emotional disorder and prepares them to seek out and partner with families in order to develop and implement treatment plans that will achieve optimal outcomes
- Enables parents and caregivers to ensure mental health services are culturally competent
- Offers opportunities for parents to become certified to train and
- Provides volunteer and paid opportunities for parents to provide training in their local communities.