Rutgers New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station [Jersey Roots, Global Reach: 4-H Climate Science Educational Program: A Sustainable Communities Project at Rutgers NJAES]

State Strengthening Project

Project Description

Initiated by Rutgers Cooperative Extension (RCE) as a capacity building project for strengthening parenting skills and workforce preparation programs for NJ’s children, youth and families at risk, the Positive Futures for NJ Families project was designed to build upon the strong parenting and emerging workforce preparation programs operating in the state at that time. It also served to strengthen the overall capacity of the Extension system to deliver comprehensive educational programs for children prenatal to teen and their families.

Photo: Child in garden. Map: NJ. community site locations

In 1996, community sites were initially identified and contracted with as pilot programs in Essex, Morris, Passaic, and Warren counties. They represent both rural and urban NJ communities. In 1999, Cumberland County was added as a community site. The Essex program (Soweto Academy) was a youth at risk (YAR) project community sustained since 1996.

Programs emphasized providing at risk families with a comprehensive set of skills related to workforce preparation, parenting, nutrition, financial stability, strengthening families strategies, and 4-H youth development education. The strategic plan for Positive Futures for NJ Families was RCE2000, which was consistent with the national CYFAR philosophy’s key ingredients of collaboration, resiliency, community based programs, citizen involvement, root causes, and diversity. Two of RCE2000's goals were to 1) Strengthening families for effective parenting, and 2) Productive Futures for Youth for learning skills that will enhance employability.

Rutgers Cooperative Extension project faculty/staff have collaborated with numerous local agencies and organizations. Local volunteers on advisory coalitions were trained to serve as resources to the project sites. Participants were active partners in determining educational needs, delivery modes, and assessing impact.

One of the successfully sustained family strengthening programs in New Jersey is the Family Camp Program.

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