Local agencies and school districts are collaborating on a new program called “Handle With Care” to help schools identify students who might have been through a traumatic event and provide that student with appropriate support. The program launches in Scioto County on Feb. 1.
The program was developed in Charleston, West Virginia, and has since expanded into southern Ohio. Sue Schultz, of the ADAMHS Board, led the effort to bring the program to Scioto County, with help from Robyn Venoy and Audrey Jones of Hopewell Health Centers to train local coordinators.
The Handle With Care program asks first responders to note when a school-aged child is present during an arrest, overdose, domestic violence incident, car accident, or other possible traumatic event. The first responder obtains the child's name, school and grade, then sends a notice stating "Handle with Care" to the appropriate school. No specific information about the event is needed.
“Once a Handle With Care notice is given the school watches if that child is having any issues or acts any differently than they usually do – if they come to school tired or don’t have their homework done,” said Coordinator Amy Hamm, of Shawnee Family Health Center.
“Maybe that child had a rough night last night or something happened and they had no support to get that work done. Maybe they had no time to get homework done. Now it’s going to give that child an option to do that. How is that child going to feel differently if his teacher gives him care instead of consequences? They’re going to feel supported. They’re going to feel like someone cares. Rather than, if all that happens and they come to school and get in trouble because they didn’t get their stuff done, how are they going to feel? They’re going to feel defeated. They’re going to feel like giving up. So this will add a lot of support and connection at school.”
Participants are trained to respond quietly, without drawing attention to the child or his situation. Children are not even aware when a notice has been reported in their name.
Community partners have grown to include the Scioto County Sheriff’s Office, Portsmouth Police Department, New Boston Police Department, Ohio State Highway Patrol Lucasville Post, All Scioto County Local Schools, ADAMHS Board of Adams, Lawrence and Scioto counties, South Central Ohio ESC, Scioto County Children’s Services, Portsmouth Fire Department, New Boston Fire Department, Green Township Fire Department, South Webster Fire Department, Union Township Fire Department, Porter Township Fire Department, Morgan Township Fire Department, and Valley Township Fire Department and Portsmouth Ambulance Service.
“The Handle With Care initiative in Scioto County is an important collaboration of many agencies. The SCOESC is facilitating the communication between the first responders and the school districts. We are happy to be the liaison for this important endeavor that will provide needed support for students,” said ESC Superintendent Sandy Mers.
For more information about the South Central Ohio ESC, visit online at www.scoesc.org, or follow on Facebook and Twitter.