BENTON AND IOWA COUNTY, IOWA—Following two years of preparation and training, the initiative ‘Handle with Care’ (HWC) is set to roll out countywide across both Benton and Iowa counties.

“Through this program, law enforcement will send a notice to a designated school employee within 24 hours of responding to a call at which a school-aged child is present,” Erin Monaghan, Director of Benton-Iowa CPPC, said of the initiative.

The email notice will only include the subject line ‘Handle with Care’ and the student’s name in the email body with the intent to provide school staff the opportunity to respond as needed in a trauma-informed manner and to also watch for signs of trauma such as acting out or isolating oneself.

HWC is a trauma-informed response model designed by the West Virginia Defending Childhood Initiative. The types of calls for which an HWC could be sent to a school include, but are not limited to, abuse, abandonment, car accident, neglect, arson, assault, burglary, death of any kind, domestic disturbance, drug investigation or arrest, harassment, shots fired, or a search warrant of any kind.

“Handle with Care is a simple way to inform educators that there may be problems outside of school that impact students in the classroom,” Assistant Chief of Police Justin Parsons, Williamsburg Police Department, said of the HWC initiative. “This assists in the partnership between law enforcement and educators to provide a safe learning environment.”

“No child should ever have to experience trauma, but when they do, we must be there to aid in their recovery. This program will provide the help needed for students to thrive despite the trauma,” Sgt. Chris Rider, Benton County Sheriff’s Office, said of the HWC initiative.

Upon receiving an HWC, the designated school contact will immediately send an email to the appropriate principal or school counselor to alert them; the student’s teacher will then be alerted. No other information will be shared.

According to a national survey conducted by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, more than 60 percent of American children were exposed to violence in one or more general areas including conventional crime, child maltreatment, peer and sibling offenses, sexual assault, witnessing and indirect exposure to violence, and Internet offenses.

Childhood trauma has the potential to dramatically undermine an individual’s ability to cope and can lead to a cascade of social, emotional, and academic difficulties. 

An HWC notice is designed to give teachers a heads up, connect students with accessible mental health services if needed, and strengthen relationships in the community.

“Given the ‘Handle with Care’ resource—schools, law enforcement, and their partners can play a critical support role for kids impacted by trauma and provide them with a safe haven,” Sgt. Rider said.

As a community-based coalition, CPPC believes Protecting Children is Everyone’s Business.

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