A recent national survey of the incidence and prevalence of children’s exposure to violence and trauma revealed that 60% of American children have been exposed to violence, crime or abuse. Forty percent were direct victims of two or more violent acts. Prolonged exposure to violence and trauma can seriously undermine children’s ability to focus, behave appropriately, and learn in school. It often leads to school failure, truancy, suspension or expulsion, dropping out, or involvement in the juvenile justice system.
The West Virginia Defending Childhood Initiative, commonly referred to as “Handle With Care,” is tailored to reflect the needs and issues affecting children in West Virginia. The Initiative, a result of a collaborative effort of key stakeholders and partners, builds upon the success of proven programs throughout the country. The goal of the Initiative is to prevent children’s exposure to trauma and violence, mitigate negative affects experienced by children’s exposure to trauma, and to increase knowledge and awareness of this issue.
When Jackson, Michigan first heard about Handle With Care it seemed the perfect fit with what we were doing in so many of our collaborative areas. The goals and the work of the program would allow for children and youth to remain in school and in their classrooms for better learning, which is supported by our Jackson County School Justice Partnership and our Cradle to Career; it would allow for all members of our community to understand and respond to trauma in a positive manner, which is supported by our Trauma Informed Community Collaborative; and it provides for the possibility of on-site mental health services at the schools, which is supported by our work with Project AWARE in Jackson (and Hillsdale) Counties.
Model Handle With Care (“HWC”) programs promote safe and supportive homes, schools and communities that protect children, and help traumatized children heal and thrive. HWC promotes school-community partnerships aimed at ensuring that children who are exposed to trauma in their home, school or community receive appropriate interventions to help them achieve academically at their highest levels despite whatever traumatic circumstances they may have endured. The ultimate goal of HWC is to help students to succeed in school. Regardless of the source of trauma, the common thread for effective intervention is the school. Research now shows that trauma can undermine children’s ability to learn, form relationships, and function appropriately in the classroom. HWC programs support children exposed to trauma and violence through improved communication and collaboration between law enforcement, schools and mental health providers, and connects families, schools and communities to mental health services.
For more information, visit handlewithcaremi.org.