Tiffin, Ohio — Seneca County Family and Children First Council’s Handle With Care program has expanded across Seneca County since its launch in March 2021.
Handle With Care is a program aimed at avoiding secondary trauma and encouraging positive encounters between first-responders and children.
When a first-responder encounters a child in a traumatic situation, a notification is made to the child’s school to let them know he or she needs to be handled with care, and mental health services could be made available to students should a need exist.
Situations prompting a Handle With Care notification could include domestic violence, house fires, car accidents or search warrants. No details about the incident are shared.
As of Wednesday, 31 notifications had been made to local schools since the program launched.
Sharon George, executive director of Seneca County Family and Children First Council, said the Council is grateful to the first-responders, schools and community partners who have collaborated to make Handle With Care a reality for Seneca County.
“The notifications made by first responders to the Seneca County Schools have allowed school personnel to provide extra care and support to children and youth when they need it the most,” she said. “Although we do not wish to see notifications, we are incredibly fortunate to have Handle With Care in place when traumatic events involving children take place in Seneca County.”
First-responder departments involved in Handle With Care include Fostoria Fire Division, Fostoria Police Department, Seneca County Community Emergency Response Team, Seneca County Firefighters Association, Seneca County Sheriff’s Office, Tiffin Fire Rescue Division and Tiffin Police Department.
Seneca County Youth Center and Seneca County Juvenile and Probate Court personnel also have been trained in Handle With Care.
Schools involved in Handle With Care include Bridges Preparatory Academy, Calvert Catholic Schools, Fostoria City Schools, Hopewell-Loudon, New Riegel, North Central Academy, Old Fort, Seneca East, Sentinel Career and Technology Center, Seneca County Opportunity Center and Tiffin City Schools.
Jennifer Abell, director of Student Services at Fostoria City Schools, said officials are excited to be able to implement Handle With Care within the school district.
“With the help of county partnerships and training of the school staff and area first responder staff, relevant educators are able to be informed of any student who has potentially been exposed to a traumatic event during non-school hours,” she said. “The information is shared prior to the student’s next day at school and allows the teacher to be aware that the student may be experiencing feelings that could interfere with their learning and therefore, encourages staff to provide a level of grace to the student to show that he/she is supported and cared for.”
Abell said that can make all the difference in a student’s behavior and academic achievement and helps foster meaningful relationships between educators and students.
In addition to sending and receiving notices, Handle With Care sets up opportunities for positive encounters between first-responders and children.
Local schools have welcomed first-responders to engage with students at lunch and during recess.
So far, visits have occurred at Bridges Preparatory Academy, Fostoria Elementary School, Krout 2-3, Tiffin Middle School and Washington K-1.
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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