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Child Abuse Research Education and Service Institute

The THRIVE Center

The first step towards healing for children of all ages

The THRIVE (Transcend, Heal, Respond, InnoVate & Empower) Center, an initiative of the CARES Institute, is one of the first healthcare programs of its kind in the region. Our focus is on serving youth who are at risk of, or who have experienced, commercial sexual exploitation and sex trafficking. Through patient-led, trauma-informed and healing-centered medical care, we aim to address the unique healthcare needs of this population. By collaborating closely with their care teams and partner agencies, we seek to enhance and complement existing primary care services, ensuring both comprehensive medical support as well as access to the specialized resources that meet the specific needs of our patients.

Trauma-informed, culturally sensitive healthcare

Empowerment through information

At the THRIVE Center, young visitors find a braver and safer space free from judgment. Our medical team prioritizes the individual needs of each patient, offering informative support to empower them in making informed decisions about their care.

We welcome referrals from local Prosecutor's Offices, the Department of Child Protection and Permanency (DCP&P), as well as various partner agencies.

For more information, please reach out to the program coordinator, Megan Price, at or 856-325-3800.

photo of Dr. Nicole LeopardiNicole Leopardi, MD, FAAP (she/her/hers)
Director of the THRIVE Center

Dr. Leopardi is a board-certified general pediatrician at the Rowan-Virtua Child Abuse Research Education & Service (Rowan-Virtua CARES) Institute and also holds an academic appointment of Clinical Associate Professor of Pediatrics at Rowan-Virtua School of Osteopathic Medicine (Rowan-Virtua SOM). Dr. Leopardi is the Medical Director of the Transcend Heal Respond InnoVate & Empower (THRIVE) Center at the CARES Institute, focusing on youth who have experienced or are at higher risk of experiencing trafficking and exploitation. Prior to transitioning to her current position at the CARES Institute in 2023, Dr. Leopardi was a primary care provider at the Cooper Children’s Regional Center in Camden and Sewell, NJ for 15 years, where she also completed her residency in Pediatrics and served as Chief Resident.

Dr. Leopardi began her anti-trafficking work in 2015, when she was enlisted to provide primary care to youth in New Jersey who had experienced trafficking. She has been on the Board of the New Jersey Coalition Against Human Trafficking (NJCAHT) since 2020. She is a highly regarded speaker on the NJCAHT Speaker's Bureau, speaking to various audiences across the state, and serves as the chair of the NJCAHT's Governance Committee. Dr. Leopardi serves on the NJ Office of the Attorney General's Human Trafficking Task Force and is the co-chair of their healthcare committee. Additionally, she is a founding member, and the co-chair, of the New Jersey chapter American Academy of Pediatrics (NJAAP) Anti-Trafficking Task Force, where she promotes resilience in children and families to help prevent trafficking, as well as other forms of child abuse and neglect. It is her passion to provide trauma-informed, healing-centered care to youth, lifting up their voices – the most important voices – with dignity and compassion.

Our Offices:

The CARES Institute has two locations to service our community:

STRATFORD: 42 E. Laurel Road, Suite 1100
VINELAND: 1051 W. Sherman Avenue, Building 5, Suite A

PHONE: 856-566-7036

For directions and campus map, check out our About Us page.


These organizations provide additional helpful information and resources about child trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation.

In an effort to raise awareness, we recognize World Day Against Trafficking in Persons on July 30.