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Madison, Advocacy Center launch ‘Handle With Care’ program to help with students’ trauma

MADISON – Childhood trauma is a growing epidemic and schools – teachers and administrators – are on the front line.

They see the shaken, upset students on a daily basis and have to lend comfort to them.

Now, to help educators deal with the situations, the National Children’s Advocacy Center, Madison City Schools, and Madison Police and Fire departments have created the state’s first Handle With Care program. This collaborative effort provides trauma-informed support and care to children who have experienced traumatic events.

“Madison City Schools is pleased to partner with the National Children’s Advocacy Center and our first responders in the Handle With Care program,” said Schools Superintendent Dr. Ed Nichols. “As educators, we know that traumatic experiences can impact student learning from lack of sleep, difficulty concentrating, changes in behavior, or being unprepared for class.

“Through the HWC initiative, schools are better able to address the needs of these students by offering extra care to help them succeed.”

The Handle With Care program operates on a simple premise. When first responders encounter a child during a potentially traumatic event or crisis, they notify the child’s school with a confidential message that reads, “Handle With Care.” This discreet notification lets educators know, without divulging sensitive details, that the child may need additional support. By doing so, schools can create an environment attuned to the child’s needs, offering appropriate resources and assistance.

The goal is to reduce disciplinary issues in schools while increasing student success and graduation rates.

“The City of Madison Police Department is honored to partner with the National Children’s Advocacy Center to be the first law enforcement agency in the state to initiate the Handle With Care Program,” said Police Chief Johnny Gandy. “We have a very large student-age population that attends our world-class school district, and this is yet one more tool to allow us to assist our schools in servicing the best needs of our children, especially when they are in crisis.”

Madison City Schools officials will notify appropriate school personnel of a HWC notice on a “need-to-know” basis. Staff are instructed not to discuss any HWC with the child, only to observe and provide support if the child needs extra care.

The HWC notice does not imply that the child or the child’s family was directly involved in the potentially traumatic event, only that the child was present and may be impacted by it. This notice is not placed in the child’s permanent records.

(Handle With Care/Contributed)

“Madison Fire and Rescue is pleased to partner with The National Children’s Advocacy Center and the Madison City School system in this new program,” said Madison Fire Chief David Bailey. “It is our desire that every child be provided with the best chance for success in school as well as life. We believe identifying any situation that might cause a child trauma in everyday life would help them in the future.”

Increased use of trauma-sensitive strategies by educators and school leaders will improve educational and life outcomes for students experiencing trauma because of adverse childhood experiences.

The Handle With Care website and database are funded by the Department of Justice Office of Victims of Crime and the Madison County Women’s Philanthropy Society.

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