Handle With Care - Creating Connections

Handle With Care - Creating Connections
Posted on 09/13/2021
Handle With Care - Creating Connections

Creating Connections to Support Port Angeles Youth

Port Angeles, WA – Beginning with the 2021-2022 school year, children and youth in Port Angeles will be “handled with care” in their schools following a distressing event that requires intervention from local fire and law enforcement responders.

Some children experience traumatic events in their lives and then have to report to school the next day and perform as though nothing happened. Handle With Care provides the school with a “heads up” when a child is at the scene of a traumatic event such as a house fire, domestic violence situation, or a motor vehicle accident. “A lot of time with students, what is helpful for them is having a normal school day with caring people around them. We can’t solve all these students’ problems, but we can provide them with an organized, safe place to work through their trauma,” said Tanner Zahrt, PA High School Principal.

How it works: when a first responder encounters a child during a call, the child’s name and three words, HANDLE WITH CARE, are forwarded to the school for passive support of that child. Teachers are trained to help children struggling with trauma through observation and support; they do not discuss the incident with the child and can provide extra support and accommodation as needed.

A collaboration of first responders, community-based organizations, and the school district supports youth in Port Angeles through Handle With Care. Partners include Port Angeles School District, Port Angeles Fire Department, Port Angeles Police Department, Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe Police Department, Clallam Sherriff’s Office, Port Angeles Healthy Youth Coalition, and Clallam Resilience Project (a project of the United Way). 

As part of the Handle With Care program, staff at all these agencies participate in Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES) training and its impact on children’s growth and development. Dan Montana, PA Fire Department Community Paramedic, reflected that “Often, based upon our medical training if the child is not hurt physically, we are moving on to the next person. It is super important for us to have a tool that we can utilize to help the situation. Handle With Care is one more step in that right direction.”

 “One of the most valuable parts of this is the partnership between first responders and the schools and community organizations because there is a lot of power in the way that we respond to kids. Handle With Care can make a big difference for some of these kiddos that need us to understand where they are coming from,” said Dr. Rachel Summers, Administrator for Special Services at Port Angeles School District.

Handle With Care is helping youth in more than 500 states, counties, and local communities across the United States. Closer to home, Kitsap County launched Handle With Care two years ago.

For more information, please contact: Minnie Whalen, Project Director, Clallam Resilience Project, [email protected], or Carmen Geyer, Communication and Community Relations Coordinator, [email protected] 

Or visit: https://portangelesschools.org/community/handle_with_care

Port Angeles School District Mission: The Port Angeles School District creates learning communities that prepare each student to live, work, and learn successfully in a changing world.