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Handle with Care

Video Transcript

[Music]

[Police Officer 1] [talking into radio] 13 11 PD.

[Police Officer 2] [responding on radio] 13 11 Go ahead.

[Police Officer 1] We are out with a child that witnessed a traumatic experience. We're gonna use their Handle with Care program.

[Police Officer 2] 10-4

[Narrator] In today's reality, we are all aware that bad things can happen anywhere, at any time. All safety threats are unsettling, but especially concerning, when a child is involved.

[Radio Host] Good morning Albuquerque. This is Bob Barker, News Radio KKOB. We are going to be talking about Handle with Care today.

[Narrator] Bernalillo County, the City of Albuquerque and Albuquerque Public Schools recently adopted the Handle with Care program. The protocol is simple. First responders, trained to identify children at the scene of a crisis, send the Albuquerque Police Chief and/or the Bernalillo County Sheriff, a confidential email alerting the office to a child who may be in need of special care in the days following the incident. The child's name and date of birth is shared with the principal, counselor, and teacher of the school the student attends. No other information is provided about the student or the circumstances that triggered the Handle with Care Alert. Educators won't question the child about what happened, act any differently toward the child, or call out the student for any reason in front of others. Educators can re-teach coursework or postpone testing if the student asks.

[Raquel Reedy, Superintendent] Over the years I've seen too many students who come to school after being exposed to violence, substance abuse, domestic violence, or even a hostile divorce at home. The Handle with Care program has eliminated the guessing games for teachers, counselors, and nurses, and pretty much every school official who interacts with that child. The last thing we want to do is punish students for challenging behavior or performance in the classroom when the truth is that they are dealing with hardships in their personal lives.

[Narrator] It's not unusual for teachers, police officers, paramedics, and firefighters to experience a universal sense of anxiety when the time comes to leave a child in crisis because the situation has been de-escalated, or the school day has come to an end. First responders may be the best decisions about medical and mental care when they are fully informed about the people they are helping.

[Sherrif Manny Gonzales] Prior to the Handle with Care program we would respond to a crisis involving children who are affected by these situations. Doing our best to ensure their safety while we were there, while never really knowing if the children were safeguarded.

[Elizabeth Armijo, APD Deputy Chief of Staff] Now we have a process that enables us to reach out to the schools directly and alert them that one of their students has seen some of the worst our world has to offer and they may need some extra attention. It's simple but it's powerful. It doesn't matter who you are or how old you are, if you're experiencing pain, caring people make all the difference in the world.

[Narrator] And that's exactly what the Handle with Care program is designed to accomplish – to bring comfort to some of our most vulnerable children without singling them out, adding to their sense of uncertainty, or letting them fall behind in school. Because until we can find a fail-proof way to protect children from harm, a program like Handle with Care is a lifeline.

[Lt. Tom Ruiz] We are first to help with situations of immediate danger and then we have to move on. Thanks to the Handle with Care program, we now have a seamless plan to support kids who have been impacted by trauma.

[Chief Greg Perez] Because we see so much every day we can identify the critical needs of our community. We know what does and doesn't work. And, Handle with Care has proven to be very effective.

[Narrator] The Handle with Care program is supported by the Bernalillo County Fire Department, the Bernalillo County Sheriff's Office, the City of Albuquerque Fire and Police Department's, and Albuquerque Public Schools. Special thanks to Andre Adar the director of the West Virginia Center for Children's Justice and Lieutenant Chad Napier of the West Virginia State Police Crimes Against Children Unit for creating this unique collaboration between the educational system and law enforcement.

For more information about Handle with Care please go to APS.edu.

Overview

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. 40% 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.

Handle with Care (HWC) is tailored to reflect the needs and issues affecting children in the Albuquerque Public Schools. The initiative is a result of the collaborative efforts of key stakeholders and builds upon the success of proven programs throughout the country. The goal of HWC 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.

HWC promotes safe and supportive homes, schools, communities that protect children, and assists traumatized children to 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. 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. HWC supports children exposed to trauma and violence through improved communication and collaboration between law enforcement, schools, and other related supports.

Law Enforcement Role

A Handle with Care notification provides the school with a “heads up” when a child has been identified at the scene of a traumatic event. It could be a meth lab explosion, a domestic violence situation, a shooting in the neighborhood, witnessing a malicious wounding, a drug raid at the home, etc.

Police are trained to identify children at the scene, find out where they go to school, and send the Albuquerque Public Schools Police Department a confidential email that states the child’s name, and date of birth. That’s it. No other details.

School Roles

An email comes into the three school site points of contact (principal, counselor, nurse) from the APS Police Department. An email, with the HWC notification as an attachment, is sent from the point of contact at the school site to each teacher that interacts with that student during the current school year. The teacher/related staff will check email at the start of the duty day. If they receive a HWC notification, they will monitor the student for signs of trauma. The teacher will notify pull-out teachers as appropriate.

The student is not to be questioned about the HWC notice.

  • Teachers/school staff will not: Question the student about the event in any way, break confidentiality, act differently than they normally would, or call the student out on behavior in front of others.
  • Teachers/school staff will: Monitor the child’s behavior, maintain confidentiality, send the child to the nurse to rest if extra sleepy, re-teach lessons, postpone testing, or refer the student to the principal/counselor/nurse if the behavior is not typical. No other actions are to be taken.

Acknowledgments

Handle with Care is a collaboration between Albuquerque Fire Department, Albuquerque Police Department, Bernalillo County Commissioner Maggie Hart Stebbins - District 3, Bernalillo County Fire Department, Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Department, and Albuquerque Public Schools. Thank you to West Virginia Center for Children’s Justice, West Virginia State Police, and the F.O.C.U.S. Program (Modesto, CA) for your inspiration and support.