PHILIPSBURG:--- Representatives of the Police Department, School Boards, and School Managers were introduced to the Handle with Care (HWC). HWC is a rapid support method to assist children who witness domestic violence or have been exposed to traumatic events, and the police are called in. The Court of Guardianship (CoG), in collaboration with UNICEF the Netherlands & Augeo Foundation is working towards implementing HWC in Sint Maarten.
During information sessions held at the University of Sint Maarten, stakeholders were informed about their (possible) roles within HWC and asked for feedback on the steps and challenges of implementation. During these sessions, representatives of the Community Police, Youth & Morals Department, school boards, school managers, school social workers, and counselors were present.
"The introduction to Handle with Care was well-received by the invited stakeholders. We were all in agreement that better coordination and support between departments is needed to work together in the best interest of children on the island," shares Kimberly Brown, Head of the CoG. The following steps include further sensitization meetings and workshops on HWC: "as we need everyone on board to ensure that this method is effective," explains Kimberly.
The HWC method targets children who witness or are victims of violence at home. Picture a child who has just witnessed violence at home, going to school, but their teacher does not know they require extra attention. Maybe the teacher even reprimands the student for unusual behavior. This may be understandable if the teacher does not know that the child is having a difficult time. This does not help the child feel safe or supported and can make the situation worse.
If the police are called to an incident of domestic violence, and there are children present, they contact the Court of Guardianship. The Court of Guardianship will contact the school within 24 hours and say: "name of the child + code word: “handle with care”. No further information is shared. The school is informed and can provide rapid social support to the child, and the CoG can work on preparing a safety plan for the family.
For more information on HWC: https://www.growingupsafe-sxm.com/issue-nr2/being-prepared-for-hurricanes/feature-handle-with-care
These activities are part of the Child Resilience and Protection Project (CRPP) executed by the Government of Sint Maarten in collaboration with UNICEF The Netherlands, financed by the Government of The Netherlands, through the Sint Maarten Trust Fund, as part of the Child Resilience and Protection Project (CRPP).