By Katie Hinerman Klug and Linda Reeves
All children deserve to be treated with dignity and respect and tender loving care on a daily basis. Unfortunately, there are far too many times when a child’s world outside of the classroom or child care setting may be chaotic, unpredictable, and downright scary or dangerous. As hard as they try, children can’t leave all of their emotional turmoil at home, and it ends up coming along with them to school or child care. They need someone who will handle them with care.
“Handle With Care” is a new West Virginia Defending Childhood Initiative program that is taking off across the state of West Virginia, and it is designed to do just that – “Handle With Care” the children who have been exposed to traumatic or violent events outside of the classroom or childcare setting. Through “Handle With Care,” these children are given extra attention, compassion and support in their school or child care setting.
The “Handle With Care” Model is as follows: “If a law enforcement officer encounters a child during a call, that child’s information is forwarded to the 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.” (www.handlewithcarewv.org)
Currently, in Region One served by the Child Care Resource Center of Catholic Charities West Virginia, Monongalia and Ohio Counties have received training and are in the initial phases of implementing this critical program. Linda Reeves, Behavioral Consultant of Catholic Charities West Virginia’s Child Care Resource Center, is the designated “Handle With Care” contact person for law enforcement and children enrolled in Ohio County.