SARASOTA, Fla. (Sept. 25, 2019) – The University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee has received a $7,300 grant from the John J. Gorr Foundation (Alexandra St. Paul, Trustee) of the Manatee County Community Foundation to provide workshops in preparation for the expansion of the Handle with Care (HWC) intervention program to daycare centers.
The free workshops are designed to make daycare professionals aware of the signs and symptoms of trauma in young children and offer guidance on appropriate responses.
Adopted by Manatee County schools in April 2018, the HWC program is designed to help children receive care following traumatic experiences. Now, the program is expanding to include daycare centers in Manatee.
The grant will fund three, half-day training workshops for daycare providers. The first is set for Saturday, Sept. 28, from 8 a.m. to noon, at the Woodland Community Church, 9607 East State Road 70, Bradenton.
Two additional sessions will be held at Manatee Technical College, 6305 State Road 70 East,
Bradenton, in early in 2020. One is set for Jan. 25 at a time to be determined. The other session will be held in February.
The workshops will include information on Adverse Childhood Experiences and their effects, how trauma affects the brain and subsequent growth and development, and how to respond appropriately to children who have experienced trauma. The workshops also will include an interactive portion to discuss case studies and resources.
The HWC program was adopted in Manatee County last spring. Under the program, first responders are instructed to send a “Handle with Care” notification to school officials after a child experiences a traumatic event.
Teachers, who have been trained to recognize signs of trauma in children, are instructed to observe and report those behaviors and respond to the child in a compassionate way. Follow-up may include referring the child to a counselor or school nurse, or making accommodations for the child in the classroom.
The need to expand HWC to daycare centers was identified by Manatee County’s Early Learning Coalition and supported by school system data that notes increased behavioral problems in Pre-K children.
Further, studies indicate that prolonged exposure to violence and trauma can seriously hinder a child’s ability to focus, behave appropriately and learn. If not addressed, the effects of trauma can lead to truancy, suspension or expulsion, dropping out or involvement in the juvenile justice system.
According to a 2012 national survey of children’s health, half of the nation’s children have experienced at least one or more types of serious childhood trauma. The National Child Traumatic Stress Network defines trauma as when a child feels “intensely threatened by an event he or she is involved in or witnesses.” Examples of traumatic events can be found at www.nctsn.org/what-is-child-trauma/trauma-types.
Handle with Care seeks to promote safe and supportive homes, schools and communities that protect children and help traumatized children heal and thrive.
HWC programs enable caretakers of trauma-exposed children to provide support through improved communication and collaboration with law enforcement, schools/childcare agencies and other community partners. HWC’s primary goals are to keep children safe, respond to their behaviors in a caring way and help them succeed in school.
“Every year, hundreds of children in our county experience some type of trauma and, as we have seen from the few months in which the Handle with Care program has operated in the schools, most of the children involved in these events are not those who have already come to the attention of school officials,” said Sandra Stone, PhD, a criminology professor at USF Sarasota-Manatee.
“Through this program, we are able to identify this group of otherwise ‘silent victims’ who could benefit from a trauma-informed, caring approach in an effort to avoid future cognitive, behavioral or emotional problems,” she said. “We have already seen the difference this approach can make, and we look forward to sharing information about these effective intervention strategies with our local daycare providers.”
Stone will coordinate the workshops with assistance from Drug Free Manatee Board Chair Connie Shingledecker, Clinical Director for The Florida Center for Early Childhood Marina Bunch, Director of Early Learning for the Early Learning Coalition of Manatee County Pam Parmenter, and Health Educator Consultant with the Florida Department of Health-Manatee Dr. Carla McGill.
For more information about USF Sarasota-Manatee, visit usfsm.edu.