Handle With Care

The Northland Handle With Care initiative, built upon the success of other initiatives across the country, improves communication between law enforcement and schools in Clay, Platte and Ray Counties. Law enforcement are trained to note when children are present at the scene of a call. They simply submit only the child’s address in the Handle With Care alert system. This alert initiates a “Handle With Care” notification to a designated person at the appropriate school district. School district personnel are trained on the impact of trauma and follow a simple protocol of notifying appropriate staff, providing additional observation, and offering extra support. No direct action is taken with the child unless warranted.

Handle With Care Background

Prolonged exposure to violence and trauma can seriously weaken the developing brain’s structure and damage the lifelong physical and mental health of an individual. Youth facing adversity during childhood are at a greater risk for substance use disorders and many other health problems. Toxic stress is the kind that does the damage because it changes the brains and bodies of children. In order for stress to be classified as toxic, it must be strong, frequent, and/or prolonged AND without adequate support or buffering. Examples include physical or emotional abuse or parental substance use disorder. This type of stress undermines a child’s ability to focus, behave appropriately and learn. This often leads to problems in school, truancy, or involvement in the juvenile justice system. 

Reducing the effects of significant adversity on the developing child is essential. Research shows that stability, skill building, supportive relationships, and positive experiences are crucial for combating adversity and fostering lifelong success. In most instances, schools are in an opportune position to provide these supports. 

Handle With Care Benefits

For youth, Handle With Care just might provide the boost a child needs to overcome life’s hardships or adversity. For law enforcement, Handle With Care provides an excellent opportunity to buffer the effects of crime, violence, and trauma on area youth and may prevent additional issues down the road. For schools, these three little words, “Handle With Care”, serve as a gentle reminder that a stable, consistent, nurturing environment or relationship will buffer the impact of stressful life events on area youth.

*For more information on Handle With Care, please contact Deborah Neel at deborahn@beaconmh.org.

Northland Compass

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