Program Areas

Child Welfare

Children need stable, nurturing families to have a fair chance of developing into healthy, productive adults and realizing their potential.  Unfortunately, the social dysfunction created by intergenerational poverty and lack of opportunity prevents many poor families from providing the environments, and the tools, essential for optimizing their children’s potential.  The most practical way to help these at-risk children on a meaningful scale is to focus the social service system on strengthening their fragile families and improve the system’s effectiveness.


Family Support Centers
A 1999 Minnesota study identified the 200 Hennepin County families that used the most human services in 1996 and 1997, finding an average expenditure of almost $150,000 per family per year.  In spite of this spending, many of the families’ multiple, complex problems persisted.  Understanding the current approach to services was not working, the County created an integrated service delivery system that they hoped would be more cost effective and produce better outcomes.  The new model was successful and led the way for service-delivery reform.

Across the nation, different human services delivery systems, and the agencies funded by them, provide a vast array of services to individuals with multiple needs.  The efficacy of each service, however, is often diminished because it is provided with little or no coordination with the others.  Fragile families are frequently unable to negotiate the competing requirements and conflicting messages of their many caseworkers, each representing a different provider or mandating agency.  Complicating the challenge of coordinating programs in New Jersey is the fact that child welfare services are delivered at the state level while juvenile justice, welfare, workforce training, and drug treatment are provided at the county level.

Newark Now and the City of Newark, in partnership with New Jersey’s Department of Children and Families (DCF), the New Jersey Health Department and Essex County Citizen Services, with technical assistance from The Nicholson Foundation, have sought to address the lack of coordination between delivery systems and their service providers by developing several pilot, one-stop Family Support Centers. The Centers will enable families to access all of their social services at one site, and families will be given the opportunity to fully participate in the development of their integrated, coordinated service plans.  The goal is to improve outcomes for each family and for each agency providing services.

The first two one-stop Family Support Centers to open in 2007 will be in Baxter Terrace and Bradley Court, two Newark public housing developments, to be followed by a third Center at Seth Boyden, a facility for the elderly.  Another will be at Wynona’s House Child Advocacy Center in downtown Newark.  (Entry dated winter 2007)


Prevent Child Abuse – New Jersey
Child abuse is a serious problem in the United States, almost nowhere more so than in New Jersey.  New Jersey spends more than half a billion dollars a year to investigate and treat cases of child abuse and neglect.  This does not include spending on medical and psychiatric treatment for the victims of abuse, police and judicial expenditures, and the indirect costs of remedial education, substance abuse treatment and the incarceration of the abusers.  In addition to the fiscal costs, the costs in terms of human suffering are incalculable.  Children who have been abused or neglected are more likely to perform poorly in school, commit crimes and experience emotional, sexual and substance-abuse problems.  Child abuse victims account for nearly three quarters of the perpetrators of school shootings and for half of all teen pregnancies.

The case of seven-year-old Faheem Williams, found tragically beaten and starved to death in Newark in 2003, galvanized government officials and private stakeholders across the State to take action to significantly reduce child abuse and neglect.

Prevent Child Abuse, a national organization with state chapters, has effective programs and innovative methods to teach caregivers about child development and parenting techniques, training that has proven critical to preventing child abuse.  With Nicholson Foundation funding, Prevent Child Abuse – New Jersey (PCA-NJ) has focused much of its effort on Essex County.  In collaboration with the Essex County Executive, the Essex County Child Welfare Planning Council, the New Jersey Taskforce on Child Abuse and Neglect in Essex County and community-based organizations, PCA-NJ has run a Nicholson-funded mini-grant program for the last four years, each year awarding some twenty churches and community organizations between $1500 and $2500 to provide abuse-prevention training for volunteers—parents, professionals, para-professionals, and child caregivers.

The Nicholson Foundation is also supporting advocacy and public awareness activities in Essex County’s high-risk communities.  With Nicholson support, PCA-NJ is providing parenting skills workshops, entitled Every Person Influences Children (EPIC), to incarcerated mothers about to be discharged to Essex County.  With support from Nicholson and the Pascale Sykes Foundation, this program is also available in most elementary and middle public schools in Newark.  Hundreds of parents and teachers are expected to participate over the next five years.  In addition, PCA-NJ has enhanced its program of home visiting with Nicholson funding, to support new mothers in need in Essex County.  The program is integrated with child and maternal health programs, includes a child-welfare risk assessment, and utilizes the New Jersey Academy of Home Visitor Training to ensure quality.  (Entry dated fall 2006)


Child Advocacy Resource Association (CARAS)
A central goal of all Nicholson Foundation initiatives is to strengthen families.  The Foundation believes that removing a child from its family should be undertaken only as a last resort.  Not only is it costly, the research shows that children often do not thrive away from their families.  There are instances, however, when there is no other option.

A particular problem in New Jersey has been the lack of Spanish-speaking foster homes to care for Spanish-speaking children.  In response, in 2001, the Kean University Department of Social Work, in collaboration with New Jersey DCF, founded the Child Advocacy Resource Association (CARAS) to recruit Hispanic foster and adoptive parents to care for the increasing numbers of children removed from Spanish-speaking homes throughout the State.  With technical assistance and funding from The Nicholson Foundation, CARAS recruits Hispanic foster families, screens them, and provides initial training leading to certification.  The program is designed to be self-sustaining; fees paid by DCF for the successful certification of families cover the cost of CARAS’s operations.  The CARAS approach has since been adopted by DCF as a model for State contract foster-care development.  Churches in Cooperation is partnering with CARAS to recruit and screen foster parents through faith-based organizations.  (Entry dated summer 2006)


Churches in Cooperation, Inc.
CARAS is one of several initiatives for which Churches in Cooperation (CIC) is an instrumental Nicholson partner.  CIC is a consortium of over 60 churches, mosques, and community agencies.  Initially focused on helping parents in crisis in a general way, the network now partners to sponsor specific programs in child welfare and abuse prevention, and also offender reentry, substance abuse, law enforcement, and healthy marriages.  Because working with CIC is a powerful way to join the local community in program partnerships, Nicholson collaborated with CIC in its successful effort to position itself to win government contracts for social services.  This involved establishing by-laws, building a board, obtaining its 501(c)(3) designation, setting up financial reporting systems and providing start-up funding.  (Entry dated fall 2006)