The Genesee County Chiefs of Police Association, Genesee Intermediate School District, Weiss Child Advocacy Center, Easterseals, Genesee Health System (GHS), Whaley Children’s Center and Michigan Department of Health and Human Services – Genesee County office all collaborated to launch a Handle With Care pilot program in Genesee County schools for the 2018-19 school year.
Promoting a partnership between schools and law enforcement, the Handle With Care program was designed to ensure that kids who are exposed to trauma in their home or in the community receive appropriate interventions to help them thrive to the best of their abilities, in spite of the traumatic circumstances they experienced. The ultimate focus of the program is to help students succeed in school after exposure to trauma.
As part of the program, school staff will be notified when one of their students is involved in, or witnesses a traumatic event. When a law enforcement officer encounters a child during a call, a confidential message will be sent from law enforcement to the child’s school before the start of the next school day, alerting staff to “handle the student with care.” The notice from law enforcement will not include details of the incident; however, school staff will then know to be especially attentive to the child’s needs and sensitive to his/her circumstances outside of school.
The school implements individual, class and whole
school trauma-sensitive curricula, so that
traumatized children are “handled with care.”
“We are very excited to bring this program to Genesee County,” said Chief Theresa Stephens-Lock, Mott Community College Chief. “This program allows us to confidentially share information that teachers need to know to help a child succeed or provide the necessary services. It is a way that law enforcement and teachers can work together.”
Added Tricia Hill, Executive Director of Center for Countywide Programs at the Genesee Intermediate School District (GISD), “this program promotes the values and concern that we embody for all Genesee County schools. It directly impacts the student’s life in a positive way while allowing teachers and school officials to determine the best ways to support the student. Oftentimes, the school can be the last to know about a traumatic event that has occurred in a student’s life.”
Through this program, law enforcement and schools will also gain a better awareness and understanding of the different Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) that students face during their time away from school.
The Handle With Care model was developed and implemented in West Virginia. The Jackson County MDHHS implemented this project in August of 2017 and has been instrumental in bringing awareness of this program to Michigan.
Examples of the types of incidents that may generate a Handle With Care notice are – death of a loved one, suicide, domestic violence of a family member, hospitalization of a family member, house fire, drug overdose, etc.
“When a child suffers or experiences a traumatic event, it is all of our responsibility in Genesee County to provide support to that child as they traverse the crisis. This program allows the child to mitigate the impact of trauma and have a better educational experience,” said Claudnyse D. Holloman of the Weiss Child Advocacy Center. “Children should not have to handle crisis and trauma alone,” states Mike Milks, Genesee County Child Welfare Director for MDHHS. “It’s amazing to see all of these organizations and entities embrace our children to show them what true community means. MDHHS-Genesee County is proud to lead the effort in this initiative. Handle With Care realizes that the child cannot do it alone, and should not have to do it alone.”
Law enforcement from all jurisdictions, Michigan State Troopers and the Genesee County Sheriff’s Department, along with staff from all of the GISD schools are undergoing training led by Tishara Price (MDHHS), Elizabeth Hawrylo (MDHHS), Katie Hogleman (Easterseals), Kathleen Hendricks (Easterseals), Judy Fridline (GISD) and Officer Dave Clark (Grand Blanc Twp). During the training, attendees are provided with the logistics of the Handle With Care in Genesee County, Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), and trauma services available at GHS and Easterseals.Through this program, the ACEs and sources of trauma that could impact the lives of children can be addressed.
The Handle With Care Model
If a law enforcement officer encounters a child during a call, that child’s information is forwarded to the child’s school before the school bell rings the next day. The school implements individual, class and whole school trauma-sensitive curricula, so that traumatized children are “handled with care.” If a child needs more intervention, on-site trauma-focused mental healthcare is available at the school.