State Officials Announce Pilot Program To Assist Children And Families Affected by Addiction

By: Follow South Jersey Staff

MILLVILLE, N.J. — A new pilot program to train law enforcement officers and community stakeholders on how to recognize and interact with children and families affected by addiction and connect them with systems of care is being piloted in Millville.

The program, known as the Child Trauma Response Initiative, will launch in Millville along with two other municipalities in the state, which were identified based on an assessment of their need and existing resources.

“I believe this initiative will have an incredibly positive impact in our community by connecting children and their families to services available,” Millville Police Chief Jody Farabella said in a press release from the state. “The Millville Police Department is looking forward to having additional training to help interact with children that have been impacted by opioid related incidents.”

The Child Trauma Response Initiative, which is being paid for with $2 million in opioid settlement funds, will be administered under the Office of the New Jersey Coordinator for Addiction Responses and Enforcement Strategies (“NJ CARES”), within the Department of Law and Public Safety, in coordination with the Department of Children and Families (DCF) and the Department of Human Services (DHS). The goal of the program is to give law enforcement and community stakeholders the necessary tools to identify families – and particularly children – impacted by addiction during opioid related incidents and then link children and caregivers to the services they need to engage them in successful treatment and sustained recovery.

“Tragically, our youth are not immune to the effects of the ongoing opioid crisis. Too many children in our state have been impacted in some way by the struggles of their loved ones facing addiction,” Governor Phil Murphy stated. “Connecting New Jersey children with the support they need to process these difficult experiences is a critical component of our ongoing efforts to address and mitigate the harms of this nationwide epidemic.”

Initial funding for the Child Trauma Response Initiative comes from a settlement with global consulting firm McKinsey & Company that resolved an investigation into the company’s role in fueling the opioid epidemic by designing aggressive marketing strategies used by some of the nation’s largest opioid manufacturers, including Purdue Pharma. The State of New Jersey will receive approximately $16 million under that multistate settlement valued at $573 million total. 

The Child Trauma Response Initiative will forge a partnership among law enforcement, state agencies, and community providers that will utilize existing addiction and recovery services and programs to provide support and assistance to children and families who are experiencing emotional or behavioral crises because of addiction. The Child Trauma Response Initiative partnership will also address gaps in existing systems of care within the community to strengthen the safety net for children and families. 

“Among those hardest hit by the addiction epidemic are the children who experience trauma as the result of a parent or caregiver’s substance misuse,” Acting Attorney General Platkin said. “Sadly, this suffering is often overlooked. By recognizing these hidden victims of addiction and intervening to help them and their families get the assistance they need, law enforcement can play a key role in reversing the long-lasting and destructive ripple effects of the opioid crisis.”

Children in foster care are especially vulnerable to be affected by parents with substance abuse issues.

“About a third of children who enter foster care in New Jersey have a parent suffering from substance use,” DCF Commissioner Christine Norbut Beyer said. “Historically, child welfare systems have taken an unforgiving and punitive approach with families impacted by substance use disorder. We want to change that. We know that a parent struggling with addiction doesn’t love their child any less—they just need access to supports and resources in their community.”

Under the program, law enforcement and community stakeholders will be trained to identify the need to link families to services because of addiction in situations, such as when: 

  • A parent or other adult member of a child’s household has overdosed
  • A parent or other adult member of a child’s household has been arrested on drug-related charges
  • Law enforcement has responded to a domestic incident involving children, where drugs were involved

The Child Trauma Response Initiative program will train law enforcement officers to recognize circumstances that often occur in these conditions that may be traumatic to children, and to link the family members to appropriate services that will provide them with support to heal from the trauma of the event and successfully recover.

The two other communities piloting the program are Asbury Park in Monmouth County and Plainfield in Union County.

Follow South Jersey provides local journalism which highlights our diverse communities; fosters transparency through robust, localized, and vital reporting that holds leaders and institutions accountable; addresses critical information needs; supports people in navigating civic life; and equips people with the information necessary to partake in effective community engagement. If there is a story or event you think we should cover, please send your tips to with “NEWS” in the subject line.