Handle With Care
A recent national survey of the incidence and prevalence of children’s exposure to violence and trauma revealed that 60% of American children have been exposed to violence, crime or abuse. Forty percent were direct victims of two or more violent acts. Prolonged exposure to violence and trauma can seriously undermine children’s ability to focus, behave appropriately, and learn. It often leads to school failure, truancy, suspension or expulsion, dropping out, or involvement in the juvenile justice system.
Model Handle With Care (“HWC”) programs promote safe and supportive homes, schools and communities that protect children, and help traumatized children heal and thrive. HWC
promotes school-community partnerships aimed at ensuring that children who are exposed to trauma in their home, school or community receive appropriate interventions to help them
achieve academically at their highest levels despite whatever traumatic circumstances they may have endured. The ultimate 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 child care agency. Research now shows that trauma can undermine children’s ability to learn, form relationships, and function appropriately in the classroom. HWC programs support children exposed to trauma and violence through improved communication and collaboration between law enforcement, schools/child care agencies and local social service agencies, and connects families, schools and communities through more organized and systematic communication.
"Handle with Care" provides the school or child care agency with a “heads up” when a child has been identified at the scene of a traumatic event. It could be a meth lab explosion, a domestic violence situation, a shooting in the neighborhood, witnessing a malicious wounding, a drug raid at the home, etc. When police note that there was a child present at the scene of an incident, DAC obtains that child's information, contacts their school's resource officer, and facilitates the distribution of a card that says. . . “Handle Johnny with care” to all teachers Johnny has that day. That’s it. No other details.
School resource officers also build positive relationships with students by interacting on a regular basis. They visit classrooms, stop by for lunch, and simply chat with students to help promote positive relationships and perceptions of officers.
Teachers have been trained on the impact of trauma on learning, and are incorporating many interventions to mitigate the negative impact of trauma for identified students, including: sending students to the school nurse's office to rest (when a HWC has been received and the child is having trouble staying awake or focusing); re-teaching lessons; postponing testing; etc. Many Fort Wayne schools have also implemented interventions to help create trauma sensitive schools (Greeters; pairing students with an adult mentor in the school; “thumbs up/thumbs down” to indicate if a student is having a good day or a bad day; etc.).
Counseling and Nursing:
When identified students exhibit continued behavioral or emotional problems in the classroom, the teacher sends them to the counselor or to the nurse.
While there, students can take time to decompress, take a nap, talk to a trusted adult about what they've experienced, or anything else they may need.
Here is what a Handle With Care Card looks like:
This program, along with the explanation of it above, was directly inspired by that of West Virginia. The pilot program was run in WV and more information on it can be found here: