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North Tama schools to implement Handle with Care program


December 17, 2018
By CJ Eilers - Editor- Traer Star-Clipper / Dysart Reporter ( , Toledo Chronicle, Tama News-Herald

North Tama County Community School District will implement Handle With Care, a program designed to increase awareness of trauma with students to school officials in a confidential manner.

Created in 2013 by the West Virginia Defending Childhood Initiative, North Tama is one of the first schools in Iowa to bring the program into its system. Teresa O'Meara, a school counselor at North Tama, first learned of the program this past spring and has worked with Tama County Sheriff Dennis Kucera to begin the process of starting Handle With Care in Traer.

"A group of teachers last April attended a conference over in Dubuque and one of the sessions covered Handle with Care," O'Meara said. "The presenter was from Keystone AEA and her husband is the chief deputy in Clayton County who got this program going there. There aren't many districts doing this, so we are very pleased that Tama County Sheriff's Department was open to do this here."

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Teresa O’Meara

According to information provided by O'Meara, Handle With Care's goal "is to prevent children's exposure to trauma and violence, mitigate negative affects experienced by children's exposure to trauma, and to increase knowledge and awareness of this issue."

School personnel-administrators, counselors and student success coaches-are alerted a student was present when law enforcement is called to a home with the child present. Children are considered any preschool through twelfth grade student at North Tama County Community Schools. If a child needs more specific intervention school-based mental healthcare is available, according to the release.

"Basically, this is to increase our knowledge and awareness of something has happened with a child," O'Meara said. "We don't know the details, but if something has happened in their home, we know the child will be under more stress and we may see some issues. It's just one more piece of information to help us be more responsive."

Tama County Dispatch will deliver a Handle With Care group text or email to the North Tama County personnel listed to be contacted. No formal training is required for this program. O'Meara explained the program is still not up and running as of Monday, Dec. 10.

"They need to get a few more things running and we are waiting on a call from them," O'Meara said. "Dispatch will let us know the name, there was an incident and that's all we need. "Having law enforcement come to your house can be traumatic as a young kid and Handle With Care helps us better prepare for the day."



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