Livingston County schools will roll out a new program at the first of the year with a goal to better aid students affected by traumatic incidents.

“Handle With Care” is an initiative designed to promote communication between local law enforcement and schools. When law enforcement is on the scene of an incident that was experienced or witnessed by a school-aged child, they’ll find out what school the child attends, and a “Handle With Care” notice will be generated to the school by the next day. Teachers will observe the child’s behavior and academic performance, while a school counselor will assess the child’s needs. The counselor or a social worker will then refer the caregiver and child for follow-up services deemed appropriate. The goal is to ensure that the child is treated with care and responded to in a trauma-sensitive way.

Jennifer Tate, Executive Director of the Department of Health and Human Services Livingston County, says schools must be informed in order to identify and provide appropriate intervention steps. Tate says, "Our goal is to ensure that we're able to offer the interventions that are needed to keep those kids in school because all kids deserve an education and what we know is that teachers still have to go on with their day...they've have the ensure the kids in their classrooms are learning. So we want to give them a heads up and interventions they can utilize to assist in doing that."

Tate says teachers will not be informed of what the traumatic incident was, but program leaders will be in order to compile data to determine what resources are needed in the area to better address those types of situations.

Tate recently attended a Board of Education meeting of the Livingston Educational Service Agency (LESA) to discuss the program. She explained that traumatic events still happen to children even in an area as affluent as Livingston County. Sharing some statistics, Tate says currently the local DHHS office receives about 170 complaints in regards to child abuse and neglect per month. Those numbers increased in October with 230 complaints, 200 in November and 200 so far this month.

The program was first rolled out in Jackson County in 2016. Livingston County will be Michigan’s 49th county to implement the program, which begins at the start of the new year. More information is available at the link below. (DK)

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