Cecilia Zalkind has an extensive background in public policy advocacy for children. Her 25 years in leadership roles at ACNJ have helped produce key policy advances in child welfare, early care and education and health care in New Jersey. She has led important coalitions such as the Early Care and Education Coalition and the New Jersey Build initiative that have been instrumental in advancing high-quality early care and education in the state. Ceil has argued before the New Jersey Supreme Court on preschool standards in Abbott v. Burke, the landmark educational equity case, and on the issue of permanency for foster children in several child welfare cases. She has authored many reports, including Splintered Lives and Stolen Futures, on children in foster care, and You Have the Right, a guide to legal rights of children in New Jersey. Ceil is on the national member leadership council of Voices for America’s Children and the national Children’s Leadership Council. Ceil Zalkind joined ACNJ in 1984 as public policy director and became executive director in 2001. While at ACNJ, she served as an adjunct professor of family and adoption law at Seton Hall Law School. She holds a B.A. and M.A. from New York University and a J.D. from Rutgers Law School.
Mary Coogan is an attorney serving as assistant director of ACNJ and head of its Kidlaw Legal Resource Center. The center, which has two staff attorneys in addition to Mary, serves as an information clearinghouse on laws and legal processes affecting New Jersey children. It provides consultations to over 500 parents and professionals each year on laws and policies in child welfare, education and other legal topics. The center also produces publications and provides trainings around the state geared to each audience’s particular needs. Her primary policy areas are child welfare and children’s health. She has recently worked closely with other advocates and the state to implement a new state law mandating that all children have health coverage. She has authored several guides and reports on child welfare. Mary also oversees ACNJ’s community outreach team and Child Health Month project. Prior to joining ACNJ in 1993, Mary practiced family law in New Jersey. She received both her J.D. and B.A. from The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.
Diane Dellanno is a member of the early childhood team at ACNJ. Her primary focus is to develop an infant/toddler advocacy campaign to improve early learning policies and programs for infants and toddlers in New Jersey. Diane is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker with more than 25 years’ experience in developing and implementing parenting education programs to assist parents in understanding how their children develop, foster positive parent-child relationships, support healthy child development and engage families in their child's learning to ensure educational success.
Prior to joining ACNJ in 2012, Diane served as a director of Early Childhood and Education Programs for Prevent Child Abuse – NJ. Diane has conducted numerous state and national presentations on a variety of topics related to parenting and child abuse prevention and her research has been published in Families in Society and Social Work in Education. In 1995, she received a New Jersey Child Assault Prevention (CAP) award for her work in child abuse prevention. Diane received her BA from Montclair State University and her MSW from Rutgers-The State University.
State Outreach Coordinator
Reggie Dorsey coordinates ACNJ’s statewide community outreach efforts. His work is geared toward assisting and training grassroots organizations and community members in child advocacy. His responsibilities include development, oversight and implementation of community orientation courses and advocacy training throughout the state. He is also ACNJ’s representative on the Newark Asset Building Coalition, a broad-based coalition dedicated to identifying and providing resources and programs that enable Newark residents to achieve financial independence. Reggie represents ACNJ on a statewide partnership to promote asset-building programs around New Jersey. His prior activities at ACNJ include serving as co-chairperson of the New Jersey Task Force to Recruit Adoptive Homes for African-American Children and as coordinator of the Child Health Month campaign and coalition. He joined ACNJ in 1987. He has his M.S.W. from Rutgers University and his B.A. in Sociology from North Carolina State University.
Kids Count Coordinator
Nicole Hellriegel is the Kids Count Coordinator for ACNJ. In that role, she is responsible for collecting and analyzing state, county and local data related to the well-being of New Jersey’s children. She is also responsible for producing the various Kids Count publications, including the New Jersey Kids Count, the county profiles and rankings, the New Jersey Kids Count Pocket Guide and the Newark Kids Count, among others. Nicole also gives presentations on Kids Count data to state, local and county leaders and agencies in an effort to assist them in using these data to improve conditions for children in their area and across the state. Prior to joining ACNJ, Nicole was an Assistant Child Advocate for the New Jersey Office of the Child Advocate. While at the Child Advocate, Nicole initially worked on the Office’s Helpline, assisting callers in navigating the child welfare system and working with other state agencies to secure positive outcomes for individual children and families. She then spent her time focusing primarily on child welfare policy analysis and assisting with communications and outreach functions. Some of this work included an analysis of the Comprehensive Health Evaluation for Children (CHEC) initiative, an educational campaign on group homes for children around the state, researching and participating in a work group that drafted legislation to provide educational stability for foster youth, and the creation of a website by and for systems-involved and at-risk New Jersey youth. She also worked with the court-appointed monitor of child welfare reforms, such as an assessment of the state’s child abuse hotline and an assessment of healthcare and visitation practices for children in out-of-home placement. Nicole holds a B.A. from The College of New Jersey and an M.P.A. from Rutgers University.
Outreach and Communications Coordinator
Eloisa Hernandez works as part of the community outreach team at ACNJ. Her varied responsibilities include raising awareness of child health and safety issues through the Child Health Month newsletter. Fluent in English and Spanish, Eloisa also travels around the state giving presentations on ACNJ’s Kids Count data and topics related to child advocacy. She uses her skills with computers, graphic design and HTML to help maintain ACNJ’s website and to prepare numerous publications. Eloisa previously served as ACNJ’s Kids Count coordinator and continues to be involved in the production of Kids Count reports. She joined ACNJ in 1994 and holds a B.A. from Trenton State College, now the College of New Jersey.
Thomas King is a certified public accountant who serves as ACNJ’s business manager. He prepares the agency’s annual budget, performs all accounting functions and develops financial statements for the board of trustees and for entities that award funds to ACNJ. Prior to joining ACNJ in 2002, he was director of compliance at the New Jersey Department of Education. In this role, he was responsible for management and oversight of the department’s offices of school ethics, criminal history review, school district auditing, investigations and internal auditing. He also directed comprehensive compliance investigations of two school districts that led to their being put under state control. He has a B.S. from Rider College and is a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants.
As communications director, Nancy is responsible for managing all of ACNJ’s strategic communications, with the goal of expanding awareness and support for ACNJ’s policy agenda, helping to advance positive chance for New Jersey’s children. Before re-joining ACNJ in May 2010, Nancy was the director of policy and communications for the New Jersey Office of the Child Advocate. She had previously worked at ACNJ from 2002 to 2007, managing communications duties and the Kids Count project. Prior to becoming a child advocate, Nancy was a reporter for 16 years, including working for six years in the New Jersey Statehouse, covering primarily children’s issues for the Associated Press and the Bergen Record.
Nina Peckman works for ACNJ’s Kidlaw Resource Center as a staff attorney specializing in education and special education law and policy. Fluent in Spanish and English, she primarily assists parents by explaining the law and helping them advocate for their children in school. When necessary, she negotiates with school district staff and attends school meetings with parents. She also gives trainings in special education and education law to parents and professionals, including school staff, psychologists, social workers, and government agency staff members. Prior to joining ACNJ in 2006, Nina worked for the Community Health Law Project in New Jersey, providing legal representation to persons suffering from mental disabilities. She was also general counsel for the nonprofit agency, Engender Health, which works to improve women’s and children’s health in developing countries. Nina earned her J.D. from the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in 1985 and B.A. from Rutgers College.
Senior Policy Analyst
Sheldon Presser is responsible for research, writing and policy analysis on issues around the state and federal budgets, taxes and supports to low-income families. His policy work includes analyzing and advocating for programs that benefit children and families. Sheldon prepares and presents testimony to the New Jersey Legislature, organizes ACNJ’s annual forum on the state budget and works with Congressional staff to improve supports for New Jersey’s children. Prior to joining ACNJ in 2003, Sheldon served as Assistant Director for Fiscal and Management Operations in the New Jersey Department of Human Services and Chief Fiscal Officer of the New Jersey Division of Youth and Family Services, the state’s child welfare agency. He received his M.P.A. from Rutgers University, Newark, and his B.A. from Lehman College in New York City.
Senior Policy Analyst
Cynthia Rice is an attorney and senior policy analyst on ACNJ’s early childhood team. Her responsibilities include identifying, monitoring, writing and advocating on critical policy issues in early childhood education. She focuses on issues around New Jersey’s state-supported preschool programs and in the coordination and alignment of prekindergarten-through-third grade education. She gives presentations around the country on these topics. Cyndie has recently been working to advance the state’s planned expansion of preschool to all low-income children. That has entailed meeting with legislators and other policy makers; giving presentations to groups of school administrators, parents and private preschool providers, and; liaising with state education officials. Prior to joining ACNJ in 2002, Cynthia spent three years as an assistant district attorney in Bronx County , New York. She earned a J.D. from Pace University School of Law and a B.S. from Georgetown University.
Antoinette Abdelmalek is an administrative assistant for ACNJ. Her responsibilities include handling mail, putting together packets of informational materials for various conferences and for trainings by the Children’s Legal Resource Center, answering the phone, and other office work. She also helps with the printing of in-house publications by ACNJ and mailings of ACNJ publications. She is a native of Lebanon and is fluent in English, French and Arabic. Prior to joining ACNJ in 1982, she worked for the City of Newark in its Compensation, Rating and Inspection Bureau and for Societe Orientale de Publicite in Lebanon. She is a graduate of the Franciscan Sisters of Egypt School in Beirut.
Beatriz Alcaraz is an administrative assistant for ACNJ. Her responsibilities include production of annual directories of Newark after-school and summer programs. This entails collecting, organizing and formatting program information. She also answers phones; puts together packets of written materials for distribution at meetings and conferences; handles requests for copies of ACNJ reports; and helps with printing of in-house publications. She joined ACNJ in 2000. Beatriz is bilingual in English and Spanish. She is a graduate of Perth Amboy High School.