‘Handle With Care’ Launched In Frederick County

It provides support for children who witnessed traumatic events.


Frederick, Md (KM). There is help for children who have witnessed traumatic events. During her public information briefing on Tuesday, County Executive Jan Gardner announced that “Handle With Care” has been up and running in Frederick County since early January. “Handle With Care creates a quick and efficient way  for law enforcement and EMS to alert school personnel that a student was present at a traumatic incident,” she says. “Before that child walks into the classroom the next day, their teachers know to be on the lookout for signs of trauma or stress.”

Some of those “traumatic incidents”  : include a car crash, a fire that damages a child’s home, an overdose by a parent or other relative, a search warrant, eviction and even a family member being shot. “Once a first responder recognizes a triggering event, they complete a brief, electronic form that will route the ‘Handle With Care’ notification to the appropriate school within the Frederick County School System within 24 hours of the incident,” says Tom Coe, Deputy Chief of the Frederick County Division of Fire and Rescue Services. “It’s imperative for this program to work effectively that that notification occur after the incident, but before the start of the next school day.”

The details of the traumatic incident would not released to the school, says Coe.

For children who are too young to be in school, the information about that child witnessing a traumatic event will be sent to the Child Advocacy Center in Frederick

After the information arrives at the child’s school, personnel go into action, according to County Executive Gardner. “That could be a simple as allowing them time to rest or take a nap if they’re a young elementary school student, or extra time to complete homework or defer an exam if they’re a middle or high school student,” she say\s. “Some children may need more intensive help. If intervention is needed, trauma-focused mental health care can be made available at the school.”

The Governor announced in February, 2018, that Maryland would adopt the “Handle With Care” program. . “It was first originated it in West Virginia in 2014, largely due to the opioid epidemic and the need to connect children with community-based resources,” says Jessica Wheeler, the Chief of Juvenile Justice and Victim Services at the Governor’s Office on Crime Control and Prevention. “At the Governor’s direction, the Governor’s Office on Crime Control and Prevention sought to implement the ‘Handle With Care’ model across the state to increase trauma-informed approaches, address adverse childhood experiences and help prevent future traumatization and victimization.”

Wheeler says nine counties have put the program in place, and seven are still in the planning and development stage. She also says the Governor’s Office on Crime Control and Prevention has committed about $22-million in grants to address adverse childhood experiences and trauma-informed services since July, 2017, and the State’s Chief Executive is making funding available to put this “Handle With Care”  program   in place statewide.

Being exposed to traumatic situations can negatively impact a child, says Dr. Michael, Markoe, Deputy Superintendent of Frederick County Public Schools. “Trauma is incredibly significant, not only in  general terms for a child, but also specifically in terms of a child’s success in school,” he says. . “Exposure to violence and trauma can harm a child’s ability to focus, behave appropriately and, most importantly, learn.”

A recent survey found that 58% of children in the United States have been exposed to violence, crime or abuse in the past, year,. says County Executive Gardner, who calls that “a very sobering statistic.” And, she says, more than one in ten children  have directly experienced six or more types of direct victimization in a single year.


By Kevin McManus


County Executive Jan Gardner