ELMWOOD PARK – The Bergen County Council for Young Children (“BCCYC”) has been inspiring parents to be active in their local communities, including Elmwood Park Takes Action (“EPTA”) – a group of parents working to create equal opportunity for the children of Elmwood Park through community education, involvement and advocacy.
The BCCYC is a grant-funded program run by Care Plus NJ, Inc. (“CarePlus”) Project Coordinator Jenn Loaiza, along with health and wellness community partners. The program started with “Parent Café” events throughout the county as a means for parents and caretakers to come together and begin to address their needs and concerns for raising children.
With time, these events evolved into advocacy groups formed by the parents that were attending. Participants attend local or general council meetings in their community to organize themselves into action.
EPTA has become cohesive in their efforts of improving the quality of life for children and families in their community. By setting SMART goals, utilizing social media, and creating engagement, EPTA is setting an example of what can be accomplished through advocacy and communication.
The group has written a letter to the board of education, attends meetings and are working to involve the parent teacher organization in their efforts. They are collaborating with the school to improve the student experience through bi-monthly meetings.
EPTA has suggested that staff be trained in Youth Mental Health First Aid so that they can implement appropriate and evidence-based strategies during crisis situations. Other requests from the group include longer recess time, increasing access to extra-curricular activities, creative arts therapy, and interactive programs for children with special needs.
“We are proposing that we do as our neighboring towns and offer credits to the high school students who will offer their time with helping tutor the younger children,” the group states in a letter to the board of education, suggesting that students who need extra help should not have to pay for tutoring. Creative solutions are being sought for other requests, including after-school programs to increase creativity, problem-solving and critical thinking skills to help students succeed and mitigate the effects of any disabilities they may experience.
The BCCYC is actively seeking organizations interested in getting involved to expand the network of community partners and continue to create important connections for families. For more information on becoming a community partner, to participate, provide resources, or organize a future events, contact Jennifer Loaiza by phone at 201-265-8200 ext. 5286, or by email at JenniferLo@CarePlusNJ.org.
Community partners involved in the BCCYC include CarePlus, The Meadowlands Family Success Center, The Arc of Bergen and Passaic Counties, the Bergen County Office for Children, the Family Support Organization of Bergen County, the Partnership for Maternal and Child Health of Northern NJ, and The Center for Hope and Safety, Bergen County Division of Mental Health, Bergen Family Center, Advocates for Children of NJ, CAPE Resource Center – Bergen County Special Services School District, YWCA Bergen County, Special Child Health Services – Early Intervention, Healthy Families – TIP Bergen, Children’s Aid and Family Services – Turrell Child Care Center and Baby Basics, and Englewood Family Success Center – HIPPY.