DSD Implements Handle with Care Program

The “Handle with Care” program enables police to notify schools if they encounter a child at a 
traumatic scene, so schools and mental healthcare leaders can provide trauma-sensitive 
support right away.

This past year, police, school leaders, mental health professions and other stakeholders met to 
learn about and discuss the program. Since then, they have established a notification system, 
and joined more than 65 other U.S. cities that have started their own Handle with Care 
program.

“As first responders, we’re often the first ones to come in contact with a child in the aftermath 
of a traumatic event,” says Rapid City Chief of Police Don Hedrick. “That’s why it’s so important 
that we can develop a program that can kindly and gently wrap its arms around that child as 
they work to process and recover from these kinds of trauma.” 

Handle with Care has three components:

· Deputies with the Pennington County Sherriff’s Office or an officer with the Rapid City Police 
Department will send a notification to RCAS’ lead social worker when they encounter a child at 
a traumatic scene. Police don’t send incident details to schools, just: “Handle with Care” and 
the child’s name.

· The District’s social worker will distribute the notification to the appropriate teacher and/or 
counselor so they can monitor the student’s behavior and determine what trauma-sensitive 
support the child may need at school, such as reteaching lessons, giving more time on tests, 
sending the student to the nurses office to sleep, or sending the student to the counselor.

· If needed, the counselor will make a referral to a mental healthcare provider who will 
coordinate with the parents/caretakers and the school to provide therapy on site or in the 
community.
 
Learn more here: https://youtu.be/rpSSrxNN38s 

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About Handle with Care
In 2011, the West Virginia Children’s Justice Task Force, in collaboration with the U.S. 
Attorney’s Office for the South District of West Virginia, formed a subcommittee to explore the 
problem of children’s exposure to trauma and violence and programing to mitigate the negative 
effects of trauma. They developed Handle with Care, and in 2013, piloted the program in one 
elementary school. Since then, over 65 cities across the country have implemented the 
program.