The Statewide Parent Advocacy Network of New Jersey, Inc. (SPAN)

The mission of the Statewide Parent Advocacy Network is to empower families and inform and involve professionals and other individuals interested in the healthy development and education of children from birth through age 21.  Through this collaboration, all children will become fully participating and contributing members of our communities and society.  SPAN’s foremost commitment is to children with the greatest need due to poverty, disability; discrimination based on race, sex, or language; geographic location; or other special circumstances.  SPAN is the New Jersey Parent Information and Resource Center for families of all children, and the Parent Training and Information Center for parents of children with disabilities and other special needs.  SPAN houses Family Voices-NJ and Statewide Parent to Parent, and is a member of the Federation of Families for Children’s Mental Health, the National Coalition of Advocates for Students, the National Parent Network on Disabilities, the National Network of Partnership Schools, the National Coalition of Education Activists, Communities Can!, Family Support America, and the National Black Child Development Institute.

SPAN provides training, technical assistance, parent-to-parent support, information and resources, and parent leadership development.  SPAN’s program is carried out by a bilingual, multiracial staff of parents of children with and without special needs.  SPAN’s 50 full- and part-time staff and 50+ trained volunteer Resource Parents directly assist over 25,000 families each year.  We conduct extensive workshops on educational rights and advocacy, collaboration, and leadership skills for over 10,000 parents, educators and other professionals, and community organizations annually.  We disseminate materials to over 50,000 parents and professionals each year.  SPAN’s central office, six regional offices (housed in Jersey City, Paterson, Plainfield, Trenton, Camden, and Vineland), one northern (Bergen County) and southern (Camden County) office, part-time staff at 11 county-based Special Child Health Services Case Management Units, and 11 Community Resource Centers, ensure that SPAN’s services are available to the full range of families in New Jersey’s 21 counties and 600+ communities.

In addition to SPAN’s individual trainings on parent involvement, and parent-professional collaboration in school reform and improvement; special education; and violence prevention, SPAN offers several comprehensive training series, including:

·        Parent Leadership Development Institute, 8 sessions designed to prepare parents to be effective partners in school improvement and Abbott implementation;

·        Parents Engaged in Public Policy, 2 sessions designed to enable parents to participate in public policy debates around education, health and human services;

·        SPAN Resource Parent (SRP) Training, 6 sessions that train volunteer parents staffing our 11 Community Resource Centers  to provide information, training and in-person support to parents of children with disabilities or special health or emotional needs;

·        Strengthening Multi-Ethnic Families and Communities, and Strengthening Families, 2 series of 10-12 sessions each, assisting parents to help their children avoid violence and substance abuse;

·        The Right Question Project, helping parents learn how to ask the “right questions” about their children’s education and progress;

·        The Compact for Learning, assisting parents to support their child’s learning at home;

·        Parents As Teachers, a comprehensive training offered to Family Outreach Workers at early childhood centers in Abbott districts; and

·        New Jersey Inclusive Child Care, a 6 session training for child care providers on including children with special needs in typical early childhood programs.

SPAN promotes family-centered perspectives and services by providing a parent voice on government and advocacy committees.  SPAN staff represent families on:

·        Early childhood education and child care issues (Abbott Early Childhood Implementation External Advisory Committee, the Governor’s Early Childhood Commission, the Early Childhood Education Curriculum Framework Committee and Curriculum Framework Resources Team, the Map to Inclusive Child Care Committee of the NJ Department of Human Services, the Early Care and Education Coalition of ACNJ, the Early Intervention Self-Assessment Advisory Committee of the Department of Health, and the State Interagency Coordinating Council for Early Intervention);

·        School reform/Abbott implementation (the Abbott Whole School Reform Implementation External Advisory Committee, the Newark Whole School Reform Oversight Committee, New Jersey Department of Education Goals 2000 Advisory Committee, Abbott School Management Teams);

·        Special education (the Self-Assessment/State Improvement Plan Committee of the Department of Education, the Special Education Advisory Council, the Developmental Disabilities Council Education Subcommittee, Board of the New Jersey Coalition for Inclusive Education and Coalition for Special Education Funding Reform);

·        Mental health issues (the Children’s Initiative Advisory Council, Board of the New Jersey Parents’ Caucus); health issues (the American Academy of Pediatrics-NJ Chapter Committee on Children with Special Needs; New Jersey Citizen Action Health Care Alliance; Advisory Committee to Maternal & Child Health); and

·        Welfare and poverty issues (NJ Promise the Children Network and Legal Services-NJ Anti-Poverty Coalition).

SPAN Projects


Project SPAN Parent Training & Information Center:  SPAN provides statewide training and technical assistance for families of children with disabilities or at risk of academic failure due to poverty, limited English proficiency, inadequate education, or special health, emotional or other needs.  Telephone information and technical assistance is provided by SPAN staff at our main office in Newark, and our Northern and Southern regional offices.  To obtain telephone technical assistance, or to request information or a training, our main office may be reached through our toll-free hotline, 1-800-654-SPAN or 973-642-8100.  Speak to Maria Rodriguez (x 100) to set up a training, receive an information packet, be placed on the mailing list for our newsletter, The Bridge, or receive the telephone contact information for our northern (201-343-2009 x 237) or southern (Toni Slowinski) (856-767-7774) offices; to ask for our technical assistance specialists Suzanne Mouldavan (x107),  or Geraldine Moore (x 118) to obtain telephone help.  Telephone information and technical assistance is also available from trained volunteer SPAN Resource Parents at our Community Resource Centers in 13 counties.  If you want more information about the Community Resource Centers, Maria Rodriguez can provide the contact person and telephone number for each of our sites.  Margaret Kinsell, our Resource Center Coordinator, can tell you how the Resource Parent system works and how you can become a volunteer Resource Parent.  SPAN also has limited capacity to support families through in person meetings, meetings at school and district offices, and mediations and hearings.  Staff of our Community Education Project can provide information, training, telephone technical assistance, and in-person technical assistance and support by appointment only for families in urban Essex County.  Contact Geraldine Moore at our main office for help.  Staff of our Multilingual Center (in collaboration with Catholic Family and Community Services of Paterson), can provide information, training, technical assistance, and in-person technical assistance and support to Spanish-speaking families in Passaic County and statewide.  Contact Rose Kardashian at Catholic Family and Community Services of Paterson, 973-279-7100, for help.  SPAN also works with the New Jersey Coalition for Inclusive Education, the Medical Student Education Project (in collaboration with the UAP of New Jersey), the New Jersey State Department of Education Office of Special Education Programs Monitoring Self-Assessment Steering Committee, and the National Parent Network on Disabilities.

Project CARE and New Jersey Parent to Parent: Project CARE provides a parent advocate/Family Resources Specialist at eleven county-based Special Child Health Services case management units (Bergen, Camden, Essex, Hudson, Mercer, Middlesex, Monmouth, Morris, Passaic, Sussex and Union).  These part-time Family Resource Specialists support families who are registered with Special Child Health Services.  They may provide information, telephone or in-person technical assistance, or support at mediation or due process.  You may contact these staff through calling your county Special Child Health Services Case Management Unit.  For more information, contact Patricia Paraskevacos, Project Coordinator, at the Passaic County Special Child office, 973-523-6778.  New Jersey Statewide Parent to Parent, staffed by a part-time Statewide and four part-time Regional Parent Associates, provides orientations to parents and matches parents with experienced parent mentors to share experiences, concerns, and emotions concerning children with special health or emotional needs or disabilities.  Parents who want to support other parents through telephone or in-person, or who want to receive the free quarterly newsletter, should contact Malia Corde, the Statewide coordinator, at 908-537-4673.  You may obtain the contact information for the regional associates (NW, NE, Central, and South) by calling Maria Rodriguez at the main SPAN office.

Family Voices/Bright Futures:  This project provides two part-time State Coordinators to disseminate information to families and professionals and involve them in public policy discussions and advocacy around health care and health insurance coverage issues.  Lauren Agoratus and Bev Bowser can provide trainings or telephone technical assistance on health advocacy, managed care, partners for patients, appealing denials of medical coverage, and other health and healthcare issues affecting children with special needs.  There is also a free bimonthly newsletter.  Contact Family Voices at 609-584-5779.  Through this project, SPAN is a member of National Family Voices and Bright Futures for Children.

Essex County Family “WRAP” (Wisdom, Resource, Advocacy, and Parent to Parent Support):  This project expands SPAN’s Project CARE, Parent to Parent, and Family Voices services in Essex County, with a special focus on urban districts in Essex County.  A full-time SPAN Family Resource Specialist, Rhonda Brown, 973-857-4663, is stationed at the Essex County Special Child Health Services Early Intervention Service Coordination and 3-21 Case Management Unit, to provide information, telephone and in-person technical assistance, and support to families whose children are registered with Essex County Special Child Health Services.  She also makes referrals to the Essex County Family Voices and Parent to Parent staff, Shirley Johnson, as needed.  For more information, contact Shirley Johnson at 973-642-8100 x 112.

New Jersey Inclusive Child Care Project: This project provides a full-time project coordinator and access to training and technical assistance implementation expertise to facilitate the inclusion of children with special needs (disabilities, special health or emotional needs, or at risk due to poverty, limited English proficiency, or extenuating family circumstances) in early childhood/child care and after-school care programs.  Free information, training and technical assistance are available to providers, parents, school districts, early intervention programs, and others.  We disseminate a Resource Guide for including children with special needs; a brief “Q&A” and longer information packet on ADA/504 and child care; and parent and provider guidebooks to selecting child care for children with special needs. The project also seeks to engage families and professionals in advocacy aimed at increasing and enhancing the availability and quality of early childhood programs for all children.  If you would like to find out more about the project, or have a training or on-site technical assistance provided to your child care or before or after school center, contact Susan Guider, Project Director, at 973-642-8100 x 108.  Through this project, SPAN is a member of the New Jersey Professional Standards for Child Care work group and the National Association for the Education of Young Children.

Transition to Adult Life: SPAN is providing information, training, technical assistance and support to families and youth ages 14-21 transitioning to adult life.  This project provides a part-time coordinator/trainer, Alice Hunnicutt, 973-642-8100 x 204 or 732-235-9320, and two part-time technical assistance specialists, one in the north (Liz Mulholland), and one in the south (Joanne McKeown).  We are conducting at least one transition to adult life training for parents in each county, and one for youth themselves in each county.  Contact Maria Rodriguez at the central SPAN office to schedule a transition training, or find out when and where the next training closest to you is already scheduled.  Contact Liz (north) at the Bergen County Special Child Health Services Case Management Unit, 201-599-6153, and Joanne (south) at the Camden County Special Child Health Services Case Management Unit, 856-374-6242, for telephone technical assistance.  In very limited circumstances, it may be possible that someone may accompany you to an IEP meeting or mediation.

Youth out of School Project: This project provides a part-time advocate to assist Mercer County youth transitioning out of juvenile facilities and residential placements to enable them to return to their neighborhood schools or other appropriate education settings, particularly in Trenton.  All referrals to the advocate assigned to this project must come from the Mercer County Youth Services Commission or an agency that contracts with the Commission to provide services to youth involved in the juvenile justice system. 

Parenting IS Prevention:  This project provides a comprehensive 10-session training, Strengthening Multi-Ethnic Families and Communities, in New Jersey’s Abbott districts to help  parents learn  how to develop better relationships with their children and help their children avoid substance abuse and violence.  Other trainings available include Positive Behavior Supports and Discipline; Creating Positive School Climates; and Effective Discipline Strategies for Families. 


Parent Leadership Development Institute/Mobilization for Equity/Parent Information  and Resource Center: This project provides a comprehensive eight-session training in school reform, education law, and effective parent participation, leadership, and advocacy for PTA officers, Title I and special education advisory council members, parents on Abbott-mandated school-based management teams, and other interested parents, in urban districts.  Parent Leadership Interns conduct trainings and engage in projects aimed at increasing parent engagement and improving education.  Ongoing technical assistance is provided to parent graduates.  Telephone technical assistance is available for parents throughout the state.  In addition, parent educators provide young parents with information and support to encourage activities as their children’s first teachers and facilitate participation in their children’s education in Abbott districts through the Parents as Teachers program, in collaboration with Prevent Child Abuse-New Jersey.  SPAN works with organizations such as ASPIRA, the Urban League, the Education Law Center, the Association for Children of New Jersey, Head Start Councils, Unified Vailsburg Services Organization in Newark, the Paterson Education Fund, Catholic Family and Community Services, and other community-based and advocacy groups, and interested schools, to enhance parent leadership development and engagement.  Through this project, SPAN is a member of the National Coalition of Advocates for Students and the National Parent Advisory Board of the Public Education Network.

Children and Family Initiative (with the Association for Children of New Jersey, the New Jersey Mental Health Association, and the New Jersey Parents’ Caucus).  This project works to engage parents and professionals in a movement for comprehensive, coordinated, culturally competent services for children and families across agencies and issue areas, with a special focus on children with challenging behaviors, emotional disabilities, and special mental health needs.  Through this project, SPAN is a member of the Federation of Families for Children’s Mental Health.

Parents Engaged in Public Policy:  PEPP trains parents to be effective participants in public policy advocacy on issues affecting their children, particularly in the areas of education and health.  SPAN's Associate Director, Debra Jennings, with extensive legislative and policy experience, coordinates this project, conducts the trainings, develops ongoing Action Alerts on important public policy issues, and provides ongoing technical assistance to parent participants to support their engagement in the public policy debate.  Contact Maria Rodriguez at the main SPAN office to request a training for your parent or advocacy group or to obtain the PEPP Training packet.  Through this project, SPAN works with The Advocacy Institute in Washington, D.C. and the Center for Non-Profit Corporations in New Jersey.


SPAN staff participate on numerous federal, state, county and local boards, task forces, and committees designed to improve education and health for all children, especially children with special needs, including:


·         National Coalition of Advocates for Students (Steering Committee)
·         National Parent Involvement Panel, Public Education Network
·         National Parent Network on Disabilities (Board of Directors)
National Parent Network on Disabilities (Chair, Policy & Legislative Committee)
National/International Advocacy Advisory Committee, Advocacy Institute
Welfare and Human Rights Monitoring Project National Advisory Board
ASHA Ad Hoc Committee on Consumer/Member Advocacy
National Coalition of Education Activists 


·         State Department of Education Special Education Advisory Council
State Department of Education Parents' Rights Handbook Review Committee
State Department of Education Monitoring Review Committee
State Department of Education Core Curriculum Content Standards Parent Conference Planning Committee
New Jersey State Interagency Coordinating Council
New Jersey Department of Health Early Intervention Task Force
New Jersey Development Disabilities Council Education Subcommittee; Chair of Community Awareness and Access to Inclusion Workgroup; Inclusive Education Teacher Preparation Project Advisory Committee
New Jersey Department of Human Services Map to Inclusive Child Care Task Force; Chair of Training/Professional Development Committee
New Jersey Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Children with Special Needs
Family Support Advisory Group
Community Health Law Project Advisory Committee and Managed Care Training Task Force
Children and Family Initiative Steering Committee (with ACNJ and NJ Mental Health Association)
Children and Family Initiative Parents' Caucus
New Jersey Coalition for Inclusive Education Executive Committee
New Jersey Coalition of Advocates for Children with Special Needs
New Jersey Coalition for Special Education Funding Reform
University-Affiliated Program Consumer Advisory Council
New Jersey Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities
New Jersey Early Intervention Coalition
New Jersey Citizen Action Health Care Alliance; SSI Alliance
United Way Project Leadership
Concerned African-American Parents
New Jersey Promise the Children Network
Goals 2000 Parent Assistance Center Advisory Committee 


·         Regional Family Support Councils
County Disability Advisory Committees
Newark Project Leadership
Regional Early Intervention Collaborative Boards


SPAN staff, volunteer Resource Parents, and Board members also participate in leadership and support roles in private, non-profit agencies and organizations serving children and their families, including groups such as the Urban League, ASPIRA, PTA, local and county parent support groups, and district Boards of Education, special education parent advisory councils, PTAs and PTA councils, Title I Advisory Councils, and local school review/school-based management teams to promote family-centered perspectives and services.

For a list of SPAN Offices and Resource locations, click HERE