ACEs Coalition Seeks Approval for “Handle With Care”
Grants Coordinator Angela Graham of CHI St. Joseph’s Health joined three other members of the ACEs MN Coalition from Park Rapids to report on the program. Alternate Learning Center Coordinator Lisa Coborn, Northwoods Bank’s Mark Andersen, and High School Education Coordinator Shelli Walsh joined her.
Graham explained that Handle with Care aims to ensure that children exposed to crime, violence or abuse receive appropriate interventions to succeed in school to the best of their ability. She said research shows trauma affects children’s ability to learn, relate and function in the classroom.
A similar program exists in other states and in Duluth, the group said.
According to CDC data, ACEs can include sexual, emotional, or physical abuse; emotional or physical neglect; living in a household with someone suffering from mental illness, domestic violence, addiction or divorce; or have a parent incarcerated. Each experience counts as an ACE on a 10 point scale.
“The COVID-19 pandemic could amplify some ACEs we have in our community,” Graham said, citing factors such as social isolation, job loss, school closures, food insecurity and housing and other related stressors.
According to a 2019 survey of Park Rapids eighth, ninth and eleventh graders, she said, about 31% reported two or more ACEs, compared to an average of 24% nationwide. State. More than half reported one or more ACEs.
Graham said that across Hubbard County, youth in those classes with an ACE score of three or more were more than 2-1 / 2 times more likely to report drinking alcohol in the past month; more than three times more likely to vape; more than eight times more likely to use marijuana; 10 times more likely to report symptoms of depression in the past week; and eight times more likely to report symptoms of anxiety.
She said those risks decreased among students who reported feeling their teachers care about them, listen to them and treat them fairly. “If we have a caring adult in our children’s lives, then the risky behaviors they have are reduced,” Graham said.
Chronic activation of stress hormones hinders normal brain development, complex thinking and learning, she said, adding that children who feel insecure are more likely to participate in behaviors that are unsafe. high risk such as smoking, drug addiction, skipping school and crime.
Coborn and Walsh said Handle with Care provides a structure linking school staff with police and health departments to provide traumatic event support with the goal of keeping children in school. They explained that this communication is confidential and limited to staff members who have access to the student concerned.
Walsh called Handle with Care as part of a trauma-sensitive school, and said the program includes free staff training tools. She described some of the possible interventions, such as giving a student an extension of homework or a quiet place to take an exam.
Coborn said the program puts no additional responsibility on staff, but helps them spot issues they may want to refer to other staff like Walsh or managers.
Walsh explained how it works, saying law enforcement would send an email alert to an address visible only to managers and herself, for example, if an ACE occurred overnight at the home of the Student. They could then place an icon next to the relevant student’s name in the student information system, similar to an allergy alert or blended learning group number.
Coborn and Walsh stressed that this notification does not include private information about the situation the student is going through. “It’s ‘careful handling’, it doesn’t say exactly what happened,” Coborn said.
Graham said they hoped to roll out the program to all three Hubbard County schools and help it spread from there. She said local law enforcement and county prosecutor Jonathan Frieden agreed.
She said the committee had four requests from the school board: support for the program in general; the use of some staff development time during the fall to inform school staff; set up a way for law enforcement to report ACEs to school, such as a dedicated, easy-to-remember email address; and outreach to inform the community about the program and its benefits.
Superintendent Lance Bagstad warned that the school already had a program called Handle with Care, related to special education.