Handle With Care
March 2023: Currently being piloted at School City Mishawaka
Childhood trauma, often called Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), is an event that can have negative, lasting effects on a child’s mental and physical well-being. Childhood trauma and the resulting stress can interrupt normal brain and body development, undermine a child’s focus and ability to learn in school, increase risk for engagement in negative coping behaviors and involvement in the criminal justice system, and increase risk for chronic mental and physical health problems.
Handle With Care is a program that enables local police to notify school districts when they encounter a child at a traumatic scene, so school personnel and mental health partners can provide appropriate trauma-sensitive interventions immediately. Relationships with stable, caring adults buffer the harmful effects of trauma or ACEs.
Handle With Care requires:
- Police to send notification to schools
- Schools to receive notifications and prepare trauma-sensitive support
- Mental healthcare providers to partner with schools for on-site therapy.
The plan is to bring the program to the remaining school systems in St. Joseph County by the Fall of 2023.
Components of this program were developed with guidance and technical assistance from the Massachusetts Advocates for Children: Trauma and Learning Policy Initiative, in collaboration with Harvard Law School and the Task Force on Children Affected by Domestic Violence. Special thanks to Joe Ristuccia, Ed.M., co-author of Helping Traumatized Children Learn, Edward Jacoubs with the Plymouth County District Attorney’s Office in Brockton, MA, and Huntington, WV community activist and volunteer Leon White.
Our local effort is being supported by the Salud America! “Handle With Care Action Pack.” The Action Pack, which provides free template materials, resources, and technical assistance, was created by Dr. Amelie G. Ramirez, director of the Salud America! Latino health equity program at UT Health San Antonio and Darr of the West Virginia Center for Children’s Justice.