Jersey Gives a Damn!

The ‘Jersey Gives a Damn’ podcast captures conversation with the innovators, leaders, and changemakers making New Jersey’s communities stronger. It’s hosted by Aaron Turner, Chief Philanthropic Officer at the Community Foundation of New Jersey where it’s our privilege to help hundreds of philanthropically minded New Jerseyans have the greatest impact on the causes and communities they care about.

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Episode 10: A Closer Look at Foster Care in NJ

CASA NJ & Roots and Wings

New Jersey has had a fraught history with foster care. But over the years, we’ve seen major structural and programmatic shifts — including the hiring of an outside expert to monitor our state’s reform efforts. In our latest episode, we delve into the “out-of-home placement” process, discuss the challenges in the state’s judiciary and child welfare systems, and call out solutions from the legislative to the personal level. We were joined in our conversation by Edith Villacampa Fiato, Executive Director of Roots and Wings, who talked about the experiences of children who have aged out of the foster care system and Liza Kirschenbaum, Associate Director of Court Appointed Special Advocates NJ. They both pinpointed concrete ways that you — our listeners — can step up to help ensure that New Jersey’s children thrive in stable, emotionally supportive, and safe environments — no matter their familial situations or circumstances.

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Episode 9: The Loss of Local News, Its Impacts and What to Do About It

NJ Civic Information Consortium & the Trenton Journal

‘America has lost one-third of its newspapers and two-thirds of its newspaper journalists since 2005’, according to a study from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. At the current pace, the country is on track to have lost 3,000 newspapers in the last twenty years, with fewer than 6,000 remaining. Beyond the obvious information vacuum and lost jobs, studies show that the decline in local news leads to increased political polarization, more political corruption, and a greater risk of misinformation filling the void. To talk about these changes — and ways we might reverse these trends in New Jersey — we speak with Chris Daggett from the New Jersey Civic Information Consortium, which provides financial resources for local news and information providers, and Kenny Miles of the Trenton Journal, an independent platform that specifically addresses information gaps and amplifies voices in New Jersey’s capital city.

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Episode 8: A Conversation on Human Trafficking in NJ

NJ Coalition Against Human Trafficking, the Sanar Institute, Covenant House New Jersey, and Legal Services of New Jersey

We are switching things up a little for this episode. The Community Foundation of New Jersey has started a webinar series that brings in multiple experts for deep dive conversations on important topics. This webinar – presented here as a podcast – focuses on human trafficking, which is a problem globally and in New Jersey. The topic is both heartbreaking and incredibly complex, but our expert guests lay it out in understandable terms and provide guidance on how fundholders and citizens can engage. Some of the recommendations may surprise you. We were pleased to welcome leaders from the NJ Coalition Against Human Trafficking, the Sanar Institute, Covenant House New Jersey, and Legal Services of New Jersey, a collection of organizations committed to preventing trafficking and supporting survivors.

We hope you find this informative.

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Episode 7: What’s Up (or Down) with Literacy in New Jersey?

Paula White, JerseyCAN

The drop in reading scores of US children post-COVID dominated the headlines in Summer 2023 – with reading scores down in nearly every state. Unfortunately, low reading scores pre-date the pandemic, owing to intractable challenges in too many communities. “Dire,” “jarring,” and “ominous” is how one report talks about reading proficiency in New Jersey. Only a little more than 40 percent of New Jersey third graders are reading at or above proficiency. In Newark, less than 20 percent or third graders are proficient. In Camden, it’s less than 7 percent. And African American, Hispanic and children from economically disadvantaged families experience particularly low proficiency on average.

In this episode, we unpack what’s driving these low reading levels, what the impacts are, and ways to address it. Paula White joins the pod. She is Executive Director of JerseyCAN, a leading educational and advocacy organization dedicated to ensuring that all New Jersey families have access to high-quality schools. Central to their mission is making sure that students get continuous support with appropriate resources and excellent teaching, regardless of their zip code, cultural background, or socioeconomic status.

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Episode 6: Are the Kids Alright?

A look at teen mental health in New Jersey

Forty-two percent of New Jersey teens have reported feeling sad or hopeless almost every day for two weeks in a row. Two-thirds of teens in the US who experience a mental health challenge don’t seek help. Suicide is the third leading cause of death among Americans between the ages of 15 and 19. These alarming statics point to a real problem. In this episode, we hear from experts on what is driving this epidemic of worsening mental health, particularly among young people in New Jersey, what signals to look for, and what can be done to change course. We discuss the topic in two parts. First with Robert Kley and Jaime Angelini, leaders from the Mental Health Association in New Jersey who share some of the foundational pieces around mental health for young people. We then hear from Jackie Looby from Cornerstone Family Programs for a deep-dive on an innovative, evidenced-based program called “Teen Mental Health First Aid.” Jackie is joined by Azaria and Andrea, New Jersey high schoolers who have been trained in Teen Mental Health First Aid and seen its impact on their peers.

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Episode 5: Eva Turbiner

Zufall Health

Eva Turbiner is a public health legend, having led one of New Jersey’s largest health centers serving the un-insured and under-insured, Zufall Health, for 16 years. In this episode, Eva offers the listeners an overview of the population health needs in state, particularly for those on the margins not being served by the larger healthcare system. During her tenure at Zufall, the organization expanded from a single small health center in Morris County to a network of eleven clinical sites in seven New Jersey counties, serving 45,000 patients annually. Eva’s previous posts include Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of Hudson River HealthCare and as President of Palisades Planning Associates, Inc., a health care consultancy. Eva retired from Zufall earlier this year but continues to lead the Health Center Advisory Board for the National Center for Health in Public Housing, among other distinguished board positions over the years. Eva has been a leader of note in advancing health justice in New Jersey and nationally and brings that hard-earned perspective as a board member here at the Community Foundation of New Jersey.

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Episode 4: Jim White

Covenant House

Jim White is the Executive Director of Covenant House New Jersey, which has for 30 years been serving homeless and trafficked youth between the ages of 18 and 21, operating in 5 cities across New Jersey – Newark, Asbury Park, Atlantic City, Elizabeth, and Montclair. Services include providing intermediate and transitional housing for young people and a continuum of care which we will hear more about from Jim. Covenant House NJ also advocates on policy issues, including homelessness, trafficking, foster care, physical & mental health, LGBTQ+ issues, pregnant and parenting youth, affordable housing, employment, and racial discrimination. Jim provides a deep dive into the twin challenges of youth homelessness and the trafficking of young people, including the causes and ways to help set them on a course to thrive. This powerful conversation draws on Jim’s extraordinary 40 years at Covenant House supporting youth in crisis. Tune in – this is a good one!

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Episode 3: Pastor Pam Jones

Communities in Cooperation

Pastor Pam is a force of nature and an advocate for building the resiliency of New Jersey’s youth, the justice-involved, the unemployed, the under-employed, and other underserved populations and fragile families.

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Episode 2: Mark Dinglasan

New Jersey Office of the Food Security Advocate

Mark unpacks the main drivers of food insecurity nationally and in New Jersey, talks through some common misconceptions around the issue, and highlights the most promising interventions. Mark also shares his personal and professional journey to this imporant work. At the end of the episode Mark has two book recommendations for those interested in social impact work: 1) Tattoos on the Heart by Father Gregory Boyle and 2) The Whole-Brain Child by Daniel J. Siegel, M.D. and Tina Payne Bryson, Ph.D.

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Episode 1: Ryan Haygood

New Jersey Institute of Social Justice

Ryan shares with listeners the big social justice issues of the day – in New Jersey and nationally – and how his organiation is driving change. He also lays out how donors and citizens can engage with this work and make a difference.

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Thank you for listening!