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HWC Program & 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. 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. It often leads to school failure, truancy, suspension or expulsion, dropping out, or involvement in the juvenile justice system.

The goal of the Initiative is to prevent children’s exposure to trauma and violence, mitigate negative effects experienced by children’s exposure to trauma, and to increase knowledge and awareness of this issue.

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 or child care agency. Research 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 connect families, schools, and communities to mental health services.


"Handle with Care" provides the school with a “heads up” when a child has been identified at the scene of a traumatic event. It could be a domestic violence situation, a shooting in the neighborhood, a house fire, eviction, a drug raid at the home, etc.


Police are trained to identify children at the scene - ask the child's name, school and date of birth - they will send the school a confidential email that simply says . . . “Handle him/her with care”. That’s it. No other details.


Teachers have been trained on the impact of trauma on learning and are incorporating many interventions to mitigate the negative impact of trauma for identified students, through the Missouri Model.


Incorporating the Handle with Care (HWC) protocols would add another protective factor by including relevant faculty that will interact with the child throughout the day. 


A child that receives a HWC referral might be sent to the nurse's office to rest because the child is having trouble staying awake or focusing; re-teaching lessons; postponing testing; small group counseling by school counselors; and referrals to counseling or other social services.

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When identified students exhibit continued behavioral or emotional problems in the classroom, the counselor or principal refers the parent to a counseling agency which provides trauma-focused therapy.  Once the counseling agency has received a referral and parental consent, students can receive on-site counseling.

The counseling is provided to children and families at times which are least disruptive for the student. Counselors provide assessments of the child’s need, psychological testing, treatment recommendations, accommodation recommendations, and status updates to key school personnel as authorized by the child’s parent or guardian.

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