KINGSTON, Tenn. (WATE) — Roane County leaders are working together to help give children a better support system at school when they may not have one at home.  

The Roane County Anti-Drug Coalition has partnered with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and to introduce the “Handle with Care” program to other local governmental agencies. 

Handle with Care provides a local school system or child care agency with a “heads up” when a child has been identified at the scene of a traumatic event.   

The program allows first responders to identify a child at a scene and let school systems know something is going on at home that could impact the child. The school system is then able to act accordingly to give the students the proper attention they need.  

Assistant Director of Roane County Schools Tony Clower was at the event and said they have 16 schools in Roane County and over 6,000 students. He was one of over a dozen county leaders and first responders who attended an informational session to learn about the program.  

“We were excited to learn about the notification system that Handle With Care would provide which would give us a heads up if a student might be going through some type of trauma or traumatic experience,” Clower explained. 

According to the Tennessee Handle With Care website, “Prolonged exposure to violence and trauma can seriously undermine children’s ability to focus, behave appropriately, and learn. It often leads to school failure, truancy, suspension or expulsion, dropping out, or involvement in the juvenile justice system.” 

“It allows first responders to connect with school districts with a notice. The notice comes through email,” Evangeline Watanabe said. “All it says is ‘Handle with care- Johnny’ if a child has been present at a call to service. We don’t give any details or things like that.” 

“It’s giving law enforcement and first responders an opportunity to further help children that’s in crisis or if they’ve been in a traumatic event or they’ve just had some issues at home that they’re trying to get past,” Roane County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Tim Hawn said.

Handle with Care began in West Virginia in 2013 and has spread across the U.S. Several other Tennessee counties have already implemented the program.  

“It’s important that our teachers are aware of what our students are experiencing at home and many times we don’t know and this certainly will help with that,” Clower said.

Agencies will now have to complete training to implement the program. 

Roane County Assistant Director of Schools Tony Clower and Chief Deputy Tim Hawn said their offices are on board to bring this program to the area.  

“This is something we’ve been talking about for a little while that this was a possibility,” Roane County Executive Wade Creswell said. “It just makes too much sense not to do, to connect first responders with anyone that’s going to be involved with children who have been in adverse situations.”