Lawmakers debate wisdom of moving Division of Women

TRENTON – The proposal to move the Division of Women from the Department of Community Affairs to the Department of Children and Families (DCF) has some Democratic lawmakers thinking it will lose some clout.

Sen. Barbara Buono, (D-18), of Metuchen, issued a statement Thursday morning saying that she, along with Assemblywoman Bonnie Watson Coleman, (D-15), of Trenton, will introduce legislation that will keep the Division of Women within the DCA.

She said she’s particularly troubled by the lack of details regarding the move, despite officials’ claims that nothing will be reduced.  

“There’s no clear reorganization plan. Budget line-items for several programs have been removed,” Buono said in her statement. “The absence of facts is causing alarm at the ground floor among the women the division serves and the men and women providing these services.”

However, DCF Commissioner Allison Blake told the Senate Budget Committee on Thursday afternoon that the proposed move will provide women greater access to an array of services.

She said no staffing or funding changes will be made through the transition, describing the inclusion of the women’s division within DCF as “a natural fit.”

“By integrating the domestic violence, sexual assault, and displaced homemaker services currently administered by DCA into our robust support network, we will be able to work closely with service providers and advocates in a more proactive and cohesive manner and improve the coordination of services to better inform, educate and deliver services,” Blake said.

“Women will be served in a more comprehensive and holistic manner and will begin to realize better and more natural access to the wide array of support services DCF already offers through one umbrella agency.”

Assemblywoman Jennifer Beck, (R-13), of Red Bank, said the plan to move the women’s division is a good one and will help it “thrive” under DCF control. She added that she had found it “weird” the division was even under the DCA’s auspices for all these years.  

Blake added that groups like the Coalition for Battered Women and the Coalition Against Sexual Assault support the move.

 

  Lawmakers debate wisdom of moving Division of Women