LOGAN — With the aim of connecting law enforcement and educational communities around children struggling with traumatic experiences, the West Virginia Defending Childhood Initiative presented information regarding their “Handle With Care” program June 11 at the Chief Logan Convention Center at Chief Logan State Park.
Logan County Sheriff Sonya Dingess Porter, a cadre of sheriff’s deputies, member of the Logan County Board of Education Debbie Mendez and Superintendent of Logan County Schools Phyllis Doty attended the event along with a plethora of other representatives from the law enforcement, education and health care fields.
The program encourages key stakeholders in the community like schools, law enforcement, mental health providers, parent organizations and victim advocacy groups to open communication to help children deal with traumatic experiences. The aim of the program is for law enforcement to recognize and record details of children at crime scenes and inform schools that those children may have to be handled with care.
No details of the crime or situation surrounding the child are given to schools; however, the knowledge a child may act out, need extra support or space or have trouble in a myriad of ways is seen as sufficient by the program.
Tracy Dorsey Chapman, with the US Attorney’s Office, Lieutenant Chad Napier, with the Charleston Police Department and Janet Allio, a nurse at Mary Snow Elementary (MSE) discussed the pilot program for Handle With Care that is currently in operation at MSE. Chapman explained, “There was a national survey conducted several years ago that was just looking at the extent of children’s exposure to violence — not just as a direct victim of abuse and neglect but kids who are living in homes with domestic violence, kids that victims of bullying and kids who see community violence. The results of that survey were staggering. The survey revealed that 60 percent of our kids are exposed to violence or some type of traumatic experience and 40 percent were direct victims of two or more violent acts. That survey was a wake up call for our country.”
Porter explained the future implementation of Handle With Care in Logan County by stating, “We are going to work with the schools and, of course, we have reached at out mental health and other facilities that do programs with children. We are working with law enforcement, the prosecutor’s office, the victim’s advocate office and we have the Tug Valley Recovery Shelter here. So we have all the pieces of the puzzle, and now it’s getting everyone to the table and seeing how we are going to implement it in. I think today was a great showing of what is yet to come. Cathy Adkins was a huge piece in helping to get everybody on board with me…. Back in April when they had the unveiling of the Center [For Children’s Justice], I came straight back and met with Cathy and Phyllis Doty and we immediately got on board with the US Attorney’s Office, the Center and getting [Handle With Care] started.”