Children’s Rights Scores Major Victory for New Jersey’s Abused and Neglected Children

TRENTON, NJ — Children’s Rights today secured a new commitment from New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine to protect the state’s children from abuse and neglect by jumpstarting what has been a stalled effort to reform its beleaguered child welfare system with concrete measures that will produce genuine results for children.

The settlement was reached today in response to the state’s failure to reform its child welfare system despite a court order secured by Children’s Rights in 2003 during the McGreevey Administration. Last year, when it became clear the state’s reform efforts were mismanaged and failing, legal action by Children’s Rights triggered emergency mediation. When talks broke down in late 2005, the group filed a motion asking to appoint Corzine as receiver of the child welfare agency, and for the agency to be elevated to separate cabinet-level status in state government, in order to protect the state’s most vulnerable population its abused and neglected children.

Immediately thereafter, Governor Corzine pledged to create a new cabinet-level children’s agency and appointed longtime child advocate Kevin Ryan as the Commissioner of the department overseeing child welfare. The new settlement resolves the contempt motion and commits the Governor to new binding reforms intended to generate drastically improved results for the state’s abused and neglected children.

“The children we represent suffered greatly because of the state’s unkept promises and unconscionable mismanagement of child welfare reform,” said Marcia Robinson Lowry, executive director of Children’s Rights. “Today’s agreement is focused on what children need and what the state must do to produce results. It sets long-range goals based on a realistic and honest assessment of where the agency is now and where it needs to be. This agreement should produce much-needed improvements for New Jersey’s at risk children.”

“This settlement is a win for the children of New Jersey and a smart investment in New Jersey’s future,” said Susan Lambiase, associate director of Children’s Rights and lead attorney on the case advocating on behalf of more than 11,000 neglected and abused children in New Jersey. “For too long, the state has been unable to untangle its awful child welfare mess. This repeated failure has left New Jersey’s most vulnerable children in continual jeopardy. Today’s agreement shows that Governor Corzine and Commissioner Ryan are stepping up to see that abused and neglected children in the state finally receive the focused care and attention they need and deserve.”

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