Pilot program for traumatized kids to begin in Knox County

Photo by Bobbie Poynter  Tom Vicini, Dir., Operation UNITE
Photo by Bobbie Poynter
Tom Vicini, Dir., Operation UNITE

Knox County is about to play host to a pilot project where law enforcement, as well as the local schools, will look out for children caught in traumatic circumstances.

“Handle With Care is one of the most simple concepts I’ve ever seen in my life,” said Dan Smoot, Director of Drug Prevention and Education, Appalachia HIDTA, as he addressed the Knox County UNITE Coalition Tuesday.

Dan Smoot, Director of Drug Prevention and Education, Appalachia HIDTA
Dan Smoot, Director of Drug Prevention and Education, Appalachia HIDTA

The chief concern of Handle With Care is for elementary school-aged children who are left in a home after law enforcement has charged in, arrested the adults and confiscated any drugs.

“What happens to those kids?” asked Smoot.

The problem is, these children could end up being up all night. They may be sent to their grandparents to stay. They might be hungry, and they may not have had the chance to even finish their homework.

According to Smoot, in this new pilot program, the police agency that shows up at the house can either fax, text or scan a quick memo to the child’s principal or superintendent that says, “Handle that child with care.” There would be no mention of what the actual traumatic event was, whether it be domestic violence or drug related. The school would simply be made aware that there was a traumatic event in that child’s life.

UNITE, Smoot said, will provide training to both law enforcement teachers. The training is provided so that teachers, understanding something bad has happened in the child’s life, can take the appropriate steps to help the child, whether it be, need food, medical attention, extra time to study or take a test, or maybe just to get some rest.

After a traumatic event, children are simply too embarrassed to tell their teacher, or anyone else for that matter, what has taken place. This program is set up to let the teachers know in advance that the child needs a little something extra.

“For several days,” said Smoot, “the school will pamper that child and let him know that he’s cared for. This gives the school a heads up and a chance to make a difference in these kids’ lives.

Most kids, he said, just need a day or two and they bounce right back. However, other children may need long-term help, and that will be included in the program too.

“We picked Knox County out of 32 Kentucky counties for this pilot program because we have better partnerships in this county than anywhere else,” said Tom Vicini, Deputy Director of Operation UNITE. “Knox UNITE has been number one in so many areas with its involvement in law enforcement, the faith-based community, the school systems and other agencies within the community. You guys have done it better than any county we’ve got. We have confidence that you will do this thing the right way, and give us the feedback we need so that we can implement this the right way.”

“We picked Knox County out of 32 Kentucky counties for this pilot program because we have better partnerships in this county than anywhere else,” said Tom Vicini, Deputy Director of Operation UNITE. “Knox UNITE has been number one in so many areas with its involvement in law enforcement, the faith-based community, the school systems and other agencies within the community. You guys have done it better than any county we’ve got. We have confidence that you will do this thing the right way, and give us the feedback we need so that we can implement this the right way.”

The next step is to get local law enforcement and the schools on board.

“We can work the bugs out as we go,” said Smoot.