Handle With Care
What is Handle With Care?
Handle With Care (HWC) is a model for the early identification of children impacted by trauma, created by the West Virginia Center for Children’s Justice.
The model establishes a framework for communication from law enforcement to schools if a child is present at certain incident scenes. Officers send a text, email, or electronic form to the school with the child’s name to give them a heads up the child might need to be “handled with care.”
Schools develop individual, classroom, and district-wide trauma-sensitive training and resources to support those children.
A Closer Look at the Problem
In an average classroom, 80% of student will have experienced one or more Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs).
ACEs are traumatic events in childhood such as abuse, neglect, and other household dysfunction including the arrest of a parent, divorce, or substance abuse in the home. Research has shown a direct link between exposure to these events and serious health problems later in life such as cancer, obesity, and even risk of suicide.
Trauma and ACEs also affect children’s ability to learn. Prolonged stress from these events undermines their ability to focus, behave appropriately, and learn in school. It often leads to students falling behind, truancy, suspension or expulsion, dropping out, or involvement in the juvenile justice system.
How Does HWC Help?
The more ACEs a child experiences, the more their risk for poor health and academic outcomes. This risk can be mitigated, however, with appropriate supports. First responders such as law enforcement and fire fighters are often called to respond to traumatizing events. The HWC framework establishes a process for first responders to give the schools a “heads up” if any of their students were impacted, so that those supports can be provided.