Handle With Care- community efforts support vulnerable young smiles
“Their first interaction is quite often going to be one of the most important, so that’s why the firefighters, and the police officers, we work together to provide a warm, supportive environment for those children,” says Captain Ryan Marcks, a Mobile Medic with the Rapid City Fire Department.
After handling the scene, officers try to offer their support to young bystanders.
“Some of it is just having a quick conversation with that child when we’re done with the call, just to check in with them and see how they’re doing,” adds Lieutenant Tim Doyle, with the Rapid City Police Department.
Then the program Handle With Care, which started in August of 2021, can be utilized.
“Our officer will add a tag to that child’s name, and then a report is generated and that information will go to the school district,” says Lt. Doyle.
The district doesn’t receive information about the incident, but they’re made aware that the child has been exposed to something that may be hard for them to deal with.
Sarah Zimmerman, Social/Emotional Education Coordinator at Rapid City Area Schools, receives and distributes the notices logged by law enforcement and firefighters.
“When I receive the Handle With Care notices in the morning, I’ll send an email out to the people who are most likely to be in contact with the student, including the teacher,” explains Zimmerman. “All they get is the student’s name, the date of the incident and a simple message that says ‘please handle this student with care.'”
The teachers are then able to better address any struggles the child might face in the coming days.
“Whether that’s being extremely tired or maybe they’re emotional or maybe they’re withdrawn, this just helps the teachers understand that something’s going on and they need to just provide some extra care,” Zimmerman says.
Handle With Care is also being carried out in the Douglas School District in collaboration with Box Elder law enforcement, first responders and Monica Waltman, Special Education Director for DSD, who’ve seen similar successes.
“It really helps our teachers react in a way that is helpful,” Katy Urban, Communications Coordination for DSD says.
“It’s good to know that all of this work that went into this, it’s doing what it’s supposed to do,” says Lieutenant Doyle.
Officials say that so far, the program is doing its job handling our most vulnerable hearts with the utmost care.