ANNAPOLIS, Md. – The Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention (GOCCP) today announced the expansion of Handle With Care Maryland, a program designed to help children who are exposed to violence through seamless and careful communication and collaboration between law enforcement and schools.
Under the model, if a student has witnessed or had a traumatic experience the night before, law enforcement will simply email or call the school and, without providing details, alert them that their student has experienced something that may have an affect on his or her mood and behavior and that the student should be handled with understanding and care. The goal of the program is to provide the help needed for students to thrive despite and in spite of the traumatic circumstances.
“No child should ever have to experience trauma, but when they do, we must be there to aid in their recovery process,” said Governor Larry Hogan. “This partnership between our schools, law enforcement, mental health providers, and community partners will help ensure that our youth in need are provided with a safe, nurturing environment.”
“This is trauma-informed support,” said V. Glenn Fueston, Jr., GOCCP Executive Director. “A bad night in which a child may have witnessed something like an overdose or an act of violence between their parents is likely to impact the child on the next day and in the days following. Students shouldn’t just get the benefit of the doubt, they should feel cared for, protected and know that they have a team working on their behalf to get them through a crisis – and that’s exactly what Handle With Care does.”
The Handle with Care program began in 2013 in Charleston, West Virginia in the wake of the city’s drug epidemic, which primarily consisted of opioid abuse and addiction. Since that time, the program has grown throughout West Virginia and has been adopted by a number of states, including Maryland.
“I applaud Maryland for taking on this program and building it beyond what I could have imagined,” said Andrea Darr, Director of the West Virginia Center for Children’s Justice and the creator of the program. “The Maryland program has been embraced throughout the state and I applaud Maryland Governor Hogan who clearly puts children first. That level of support not only guarantees the program’s success, but that Maryland’s children will be cared for when they need it most.”
Maryland began its pilot program in Washington County last year. Harford, Anne Arundel, Carroll and Frederick counties are expected to begin the program this school year, with additional counties expected to follow.
In addition to the expansion of the program, Maryland also has launched the Handle With Care Maryland website to support those adopting the program. The website contains information such as tools to implement the program, answers to frequently asked questions, and trauma-informed guides for schools.