Nationally, 60% of our children have been exposed to violence, crime, or abuse. Forty percent were direct victims of two or more violent acts. Repeated or prolonged exposure to violence and trauma seriously undermines children’s ability to focus, behave appropriately, and learn in school; often leading to school failure, truancy, suspension, or expulsion, dropping out or involvement in our juvenile justice system. It is harder to address and assist a traumatized adult than a youth.
The goal of HWC is to help students to succeed in school. Regardless of the source of trauma, the common thread for effective intervention is the school or childcare agency. HWC programs support children exposed to trauma and violence through improved communication and collaboration between law enforcement, schools, childcare agencies, and mental health providers, while connecting families, schools, and communities to mental health services.
“Handle with Care” provides the school or childcare agency with a “heads up” when a child has been identified at the scene of a traumatic event involving law enforcement. Police are trained to identify children at the scene, find out where they go to school or daycare and send the school/agency a confidential email or fax that simply says . . . “Handle Johnny with care”. That’s it. No other details are provided.
In addition to providing notices, first responders will continue to build positive relationships with students by interacting regularly with classroom/lunch visits to help promote positive relationships and perceptions of first responders.
Teachers/school staff will be trained on the impact of trauma on learning and will incorporate many interventions to mitigate the negative impact of trauma for identified students, like: sending students to the clinic to rest (when a HWC has been received and the child is having trouble staying awake or focusing); re-teaching lessons; postponing testing; small group counseling by school counselors; and referrals to counseling, social service or advocacy programs.
When identified students exhibit continued behavioral or emotional problems in the classroom, the counselor or principal refers the parent to a counseling agency which provides trauma-focused therapy. Existing relationships will be leveraged, and additional partnerships established to work alongside school social workers and therapists to further support students.
Handle with Care is not a new program and has been done successfully across the entire state of West Virginia (http://handlewithcarewv.org/) and across the nation. West Virginia has created the blueprint and Fulton County will nuance and collaborate with community partners to implement this initiative to further support students. See the short overview video.
If you are interested in starting HWC in your community, please get in touch with local and national contacts below:
HWC GA CONTACTS
JBS International – To Be Added To National Call Or Basecamp for More Assistance and to ask Questions of Others Implementing
Andrea Darr – Creator of HWC through West Virginia