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TRENTON – New Jersey Department of Children and Families Commissioner Christine Norbut Beyer shared the following message yesterday with Department staff in response to the federal “zero tolerance” policy that had resulted in family separations at the southern border of the United States:

Dear DCF Colleagues,

Like many of you, I’ve watched the media coverage of the federal administration’s ‘Zero Tolerance’ policy of separating undocumented immigrant families with growing concern for the children being separated from their parents and siblings.

As many of us who work in the realm of child welfare know, the decision to separate families is never an easy one.  In our line of work, we have to weigh the trauma of keeping children in a troubled home against the trauma of removing them from familiar surroundings, loving family members, and other social support structures.

These are the sort of decisions that keep caseworkers up at night.  Is the child being served by keeping them in their home?  Are we adding to the child’s trauma by removing them from a dangerous situation?

While I agree that there are times when removing a child is necessary, it should always be an option of last resort, used only when there is a specific and imminent threat to a child’s safety.

In the case of the federal policy of separating families at the border, the children’s safety and wellbeing do not appear to have been considered at all.

We are working with our New Jersey colleagues to determine what we can do as a Department and as a State government to provide supports to the children and families who have been and continue to be hurt by this inhumane and cruel policy.

While we develop our game plan, I wanted to share two thoughts with you:

First, the New Jersey Department of Children and Families serves all children and all families in the State, regardless of national origin or citizenship status.  I’m proud of our record in this regard.  Simply put, all children deserve a happy, healthy and safe childhood, and I’m grateful to our front line staff who work day in and day out to make sure they have that opportunity. Second, I understand that individuals – particularly those who have participated in child removal proceedings – may be sensitive to the increased media coverage of families being separated at the border.  In some cases, news reports can feel overwhelming, or trigger issues of vicarious trauma among our workforce.

If you or a colleague are experiencing added stress as a result of the media coverage around the federal policy and your own experiences in the field, please know that there are supports available to you through our Worker-2-Worker Helpline program.  You can contact them from 10 a.m. – 8 p.m. at 1-855-DCPP-4-U-2 (1-855-327-7482).

And as always, if you have any thoughts or concerns that you would like to share with my office, we are always available via email at

Thanks for all you do for New Jersey’s children.



Christine Norbut Beyer, MSW
New Jersey Department of Children and Families