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Advocate for Children of New Jersey (ACNJ) President Cecilia Zalkind. (Photo: ACNJ).

Zalkind retiring from children’s advocacy group after nearly 38 years

Coogan will replace her at president of Advocate for Children of New Jersey

By David Wildstein, August 17 2022 10:09 am

Cecilia Zalkind, a tireless advocate for the protection of children in New Jersey, will retire from her post as president of Advocate for Children of New Jersey at the end of this year.

Mary Coogan, the ACNJ vice president, will relace Zalkind, the organization said on Wednesday.   She has worked at the organization since 1993.

During her nearly four decades with Advocate for Children of New Jersey, Zalkind was at the front lines in support of early care and education reforms for children, and as a zealous advocate for better health care.  She led the Early Care and Education Coalition and New Jersey BUILD initiatives and argued in support of pre-school standards and on behalf of foster children in child welfare cases.

As a leader of Think Babies, Zalkind pushed for programs in support of children from birth to age three and worked to address disparities among Black and Latina women and their children.

Zalkind joined the organization in 1984 as public policy director and has been executive director since 2001.  Her tenure has extended through eight governors.

“Her name has become synonymous with integrity, consensus building and unwavering advocacy for New Jersey’s children,” said ACNJ Chairman Charles Venti.  “As a top policymaker and foremost expert in child welfare and early care and education policy, Ceil leaves a legacy that is powerful and far-reaching, with her ability to foster strong partnerships and collaboration.”

Zalkind began her career as a caseworker for the old Division of Youth and Family Services, now known as the Division of Children Protection and Permanency.  She is a former adjunct professor of family and adoption aw at Seton Hall Law School.

“Our greatest successes have happened when we band together with our many partners – parents, community programs and state leaders – in our efforts to put children first,” Zalkind stated.  “I am inspired by the ability of people to come together in the interest of children and I am honored to have been part of the process that made that possible.”

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