A new national report on early childhood wellbeing places New Jersey high on the list of states that seem to be moving in the right direction.

Alana Vega, of Newark-based Advocates for Children of New Jersey, says the report ranked all states in three policy areas: health, strong families and positive early learning experiences.

Vega says we ranked high in the strong families category.

"Part of that is because of things like New Jersey's strong support for families like the fact that ... we're one of few states to have a paid family leave program statewide," she said.

But in the "State of Babies Yearbook 2019," Vega says Jersey needs to go farther in screening new moms for maternal depression.

Other areas of concern: Some pediatricians don't provide oral health screenings and too many infants and toddlers live in crowded housing.

According to Vega, this is a foundational time in a child's life because their brain development is high.

"It's important that we invest in very young children from the start to ensure that they are bright successful futures," she said.

Joe Cutter is the afternoon news anchor on New Jersey 101.5

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