Children who have been exposed to a traumatic event such as a crime, violence or various types of abuse may become depressed, anxious or develop habits that lead to a life of crime.

In an effort to help these children avoid that fate and have a healthy lifestyle, the Ocean County Prosecutors Office has developed a program to make sure they're doing okay.

“Ocean County Cares based on a model presented to me by Christopher Jakim, Special Agent in Charge, Drug Enforcement Administration, High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas of New York and New Jersey (HIDTA). It really works as a tool for our law enforcement officers and school officials to communicate after any child is exposed to an Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE) that involved the police,” Ocean County Prosecutor Billhimer said. “A recent national survey revealed that 60% of children have been exposed to violence, crime or abuse. The data tells us that prolonged exposure to ACE’S can seriously undermine kid’s ability to focus, behave appropriately, and learn. Such exposure leads to difficulties in school, including truancy, suspension, dropping out, or involvement in the juvenile justice system. With the cooperation of our Chiefs of Police and our Superintendents, I issued a Law Enforcement Directive codifying this process."

The Ocean County Prosecutor's office program was put together with the commitment and cooperation of the Ocean County Chiefs of Police Association and the Ocean County Association of School Administrators.

It is similar to ones rolled out in Newark, New Jersey and West Virginia. Ocean County follows Cape May County (Handle With Care) in installing such a program countywide.

"The idea is that when any police officer responds to a home or residence and notices that a child has witnessed a traumatic event, they take the child's name, age, grade and school that they go to and make a notification to a designated point of contact at the school so that when that child goes to school the next day, the school is aware the child has been through something traumatic and they can give them more special attention," Billhimer said.

Prosecutor Billhimer explains more about Ocean County Cares below:

“I’d really like to thank Chris Jakim, Special Agent in Charge, DEA/HIDTA, Anthony Pierro, Chief Juvenile Prosecutor, Chief Robert Tapp, President of the Ocean County Chiefs of Police Association, Will Smith, President of the Ocean County Association of School Administrators and Kevin Ahearn, Executive County Superintendent for their assistance in establishing OCEAN COUNTY CARES.  Little Egg Harbor Chief of Police Richard J. Buzby, Jr. was a tremendous help in resolving some issues in towns where the New Jersey State Police have jurisdiction, so thank you to Chief Buzby and the New Jersey State Police. This was a labor intensive project. We all shared the common goal of making sure that school aged children in Ocean County are afforded the services they need after experiencing a traumatic event,” Billhimer said.

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