Handle With Care Program

The “Handle With Care” Program was created to support school children throughout New Jersey who have experienced traumatic events in their lives. “Handle With Care” (HWC) is designed to promote partnerships between law enforcement and schools to help provide a safe and supportive academic environment for children exposed to traumatic events known as “adverse childhood experiences,” or ACEs. ACEs, if unaddressed, can lead to problems such as drug use and depression, and they can have a lasting impact on a child’s health, well-being, and academic success.

Under the program, law enforcement officers notify a child’s school promptly if the child is involved in a traumatic event, so that teachers can mitigate the negative impact, rather than unwittingly compounding it by disciplining the child for behavioral or performance issues that may be linked to the trauma. The teacher may offer support by, for example, providing extra help with lessons, postponing a test, or referring the child to a school nurse or counselor.

The program ensures that the child’s privacy is strictly protected. Details of the traumatic event are not shared with the school, and teachers are directed not to discuss the event with the child.

A “traumatic event” for a child is defined broadly to include, among other things:

  • a child being a victim of violence, abuse, or neglect;
  • witnessing violence in the home or community;
  • the death of an immediate family member or guardian;
  • the arrest of a household member or execution of a search warrant in the home;
  • being forcibly displaced from a home by a fire, eviction, or other event; or
  • having a family member overdose or attempt or die by suicide.

Each school will be asked to designate a point of contact to receive HWC notices and alert a child’s teacher or teachers.

“Handle With Care is a program that can alter the course of a young life by giving a child the critical support he or she needs to recover from a traumatic event,” said Attorney General Grewal. “By completing a simple form, an officer sets in motion a compassionate response that may save that child from the harmful, potentially lifelong effects of an adverse childhood experience. Through these partnerships between law enforcement and our schools, we not only will assist our most vulnerable population— our children— we will build stronger communities.”

The NJ AG Directive 2020-9, the Statewide Handle With Care Directive, can be found here.

NJ Handle With Care