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Tiffin City Schools, first responders announce joint ‘Handle With Care’ program

TiffinOhio.net Staff

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Tiffin Fire Rescue Division and Tiffin Police Department personnel spend time on Washington K-1's playground March 15. (Photo Submitted)

Tiffin, Ohio — Handle With Care, a program that formally links first-responders to schools in an effort to avoid retraumatizing children after a traumatic event, is being implemented in Tiffin City Schools.

Seneca County Family and Children First Council brought the Handle With Care  program to Seneca County to reduce trauma to children and youth.

Council members Tiffin City Schools, North Central Ohio Educational Service Center, Seneca County Department of Job and Family Services, Tiffin Mayor Aaron Montz, Seneca County Juvenile Court, Mental Health and Recovery Services Board of Seneca, Sandusky and Wyandot Counties, and Seneca County Board of Developmental Disabilities were integral in establishing this program locally.

The program’s implementation is a joint effort between the council and first responders from Tiffin Fire Rescue Division, Tiffin Police Department and Seneca County Sheriff’s Office.

Drew Lucius, firefighter-paramedic for Tiffin Fire Rescue Division, plays with children on the playground at Washington K-1 on March 15. (Photo Submitted)

Sharon George, director of Seneca County Family and Children First Council,  said the council is pleased with the collaboration between the schools, first responders and community partners to make Handle With Care a reality in  Seneca County.

“This project went from introduction through planning and into reality in just  over a year. Handle With Care will ensure children who are exposed to adverse  events receive appropriate interventions and have the chance to build resiliency  through positive relationships. Thank you to all who made this project possible  for Tiffin City school students and to the other school districts working to bring HWC to their students,” George said.

Tiffin City Schools’ implementation of Handle With Care makes Seneca County  the seventh out of Ohio’s 88 counties and the first in the northern half of Ohio to have the program operating. Other area schools are planning to implement  Handle With Care in the near future.

“Handle with Care is aimed at ensuring that children who are exposed to  adverse events receive appropriate interventions so they can succeed in school  to the best of their ability,” said Jill Miller, social worker for Tiffin City Schools.

Bill Hoffert, firefighter-paramedic for Tiffin Fire Rescue Division, plays with children on the playground at Washington K-1 on March 15. (Photo Submitted)

When first-responders encounter a family in crisis, a notification is made through Handle With Care to ensure Tiffin City Schools’ personnel are aware of  the need to treat a child with a little extra care. The notification does not include details about what occurred and helps the district ensure mental health services  are available to children in need.

“Wouldn’t it be nice if we always had a heads up before we spoke? HWC does  precisely that. We often say something and wish we could take it back,  especially if we would have known the details ahead of time,” said Jim Grubbs,  interim superintendent of Tiffin City Schools. “HWC provides the district personnel enough information to inform them that a particular student has  experienced some trauma and may not be their usual self. This program will  have a significant impact on TCS, but more importantly, it will have a substantial positive impact on the students we serve.”

Handle With Care comes at no cost to Tiffin City Schools.

Michelle Tuite, Lincoln PreK principal and director of educational programming  for Tiffin City Schools, said Handle With Care is a game-changer.

“No longer will a child need to suffer in silence with adults not realizing that  something happened the day before. Those kiddos will be extended grace and  understanding for not being up to par. There is no stigma attached as the  details are private, but the kiddo will know that they are in a safe place with  people who care,” she said.

“This is no different than any adult having a tough morning due to a tough  night. Wouldn’t it be great if you went into work and instead of being expected  to be 100%, you could have the chance to reflect, heal, and be mindful with  caring individuals around you; providing quiet support and just understanding  that you need time.”

Firefighter Amos Albright of Tiffin Fire Rescue Division plays football with Luca Evans, a Washington kindergartener, on the playground March 15. (Photo Submitted)

In addition to facilitating notifications after a traumatic event, Handle With Care seeks to encourage positive interactions between first-responders and school  children.

Training was provided to Tiffin Fire Rescue Division and Tiffin Police Department to assist first-responders involved in Handle With Care.

“The Tiffin Fire/Rescue Division is excited to be a partner in this new multi agency collaborative benefiting the children of our community. As a parent  myself it is reassuring to know that when unfortunate events may occur, we are  able to discreetly notify a child’s school to offer any needed assistance for  them,” said Rob Chappell, acting fire chief of Tiffin Fire Rescue Division.

Sgt. LaVerne Keefe of Tiffin Police Department said Tiffin Police Department is  pleased to be part of such a beneficial program.

“We strive to be involved with the youth in our community,” he said. “The  Handle With Care program provides us with an awesome opportunity to  continue seeking help for our young residents, beyond what we could previously offer. By nature, this program further fosters our agency’s relationship and communication with the schools and their staff members. Through this  increased level of communication, we can better serve our community.”

Ohio Handle With Care is supported by a partnership between Hopewell Health  Centers and Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services.

More information about Handle With Care may be found at www.handlewithcareoh.org.

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