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New program in Fort Worth will help out kids impacted by traumatic events, crimes

New program in Fort Worth will help out kids impacted by traumatic events, crimes
New program in Fort Worth will help out kids impacted by traumatic events, crimes 01:59

FORT WORTH, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) - Kids impacted by traumatic events or crimes will have someone at school aware and looking out for them under a new program now up and running city-wide in Fort Worth.

Handle With Care enables police officers who encounter a child at a scene, to pass on their name and school information so staff and counselors are aware the child has experienced something potentially serious.

The school doesn't receive any details about what happened, just a heads up to teachers and staff to "handle with care."

In a trial run in just the central and east sections of the city in early 2022, there were more than 40 referrals to staff in Fort Worth ISD schools.

Fort Worth came across the program in San Antonio, which started up an effort that was first developed in West Virginia in 2013.

Locally, FWPD worked with the Education Service Center for Region 11, an agency that works with dozens of districts on education programs and training. ESC put together software so before officers close out a call, they just enter a child's name and school information on their computer.

ESC worked with FWISD to have student enrollment and campus information, and can then notify campus staff directly of the situation. If the student doesn't attend a FWISD school, which happened on the very first referral from police in the trial, ESC can still reach out to district level staff to notify them.

"Officers I promise you on a day-to-day basis, they want to go up and follow up with some of the incidents that happen, but due to call loads they're not able to," said Tracy Carter, with Fort Worth police.

Using the example of a child who witnessed domestic violence, and is unusually inattentive in class the next day, Carter pointed out it could lead to more difficulty for the child if school staff is unaware of what they went through.

Police and school security staff also see potential safety benefits, with early awareness of a child who might act out.

"They could start displaying some unusual behavior, violent behavior," said Danny Garcia, the executive safety and security director for FWISD. "We may not know where that's coming from. It may in fact stem from something they saw, something they were exposed to."

Interest in the effort appears to be growing, according to executives at ESC Region 11, who said a Houston district has signed on, a fire department had shown interest, and there are additional meetings set with more law enforcement agencies over the next few weeks.

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