Port Angeles Police Officer Swift Sanchez with a child during a holiday shopping event. The police department is among several agencies in a partnership focused on resiliency throughout October. (Jesse Major Photography)

Port Angeles Police Officer Swift Sanchez with a child during a holiday shopping event. The police department is among several agencies in a partnership focused on resiliency throughout October. (Jesse Major Photography)

October events focus on resiliency

Partnership helps children cope with trauma

Clallam County agencies will combine efforts throughout October for Resilience Month, with particular efforts focused on children.

The Clallam County Resiliency Project formed in 2018 after a number of listening sessions with the community regarding adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), said Minnie Whalen, a member of the Clallam Resilience Project.

“We were trying to mobilize to have a strategic response to adverse childhood experiences, and people decided to try and figure out how we could develop concrete ways to foster trauma-informed care and healing practices in Clallam County,” Whalen said.

Since then, the Clallam County Resiliency Project has partnered with more than 50 community organizations to put on virtual events this month, and it has distributed kits that provide comfort items and information to have conversations about resiliency at home.

The first event is a keynote address with speaker Dr. Kira Mauseth from the Washington State Department of Health at 10 a.m. Tuesday. Mauseth will introduce the topic of NEAR (Neuroscience, Epigenetics, Adverse Childhood Experiences and Resilience) sciences and how they impact personal resiliency.

Those interested in any of the virtual events can register at www.unitedwayclallam.org by clicking Clallam Resilience Project.

One of the partnerships the project has is with the Port Angeles School District, which is encouraging its families to attend one of the events while it starts its own program.

The school district is asking families to participate in a training called NEAR is Here for Families.

Port Angeles High School and the Port Angeles Police Department, with the help of the Resilience Project, plan to help students who witness traumatic events cope through a program called Handle with Care.

When children are victims or witnesses to traumatic events, the Handle with Care program notifies the child’s respective school that the event may impact the child’s mental health and behavior.

“A lot of time with students, what is helpful for them is having a normal school day with caring people around them,” Port Angeles High School Principal Tanner Zahrt said. “We can’t solve all these students’ problems, but we can provide them with an organized, safe place to work through their trauma.”

When a firefighter, police officer or emergency medical technician comes into contact with a child who has seen or been a victim of a traumatic event, the child’s name and the code “handle with care” is relayed to the school so the child may receive the support they need, according to the program.

School districts collaborate with community organizations and first responders and receive ACE training. Most teachers already are trained in working with children who have experienced trauma and do their best to provide extra support and accommodation for them, according to the program.

“One of the most valuable parts of this is the partnership between first responders and the schools and community organizations because there is a lot of power in the way that we respond to kids,” said Rachel Summers, an administrator for special services at Port Angeles School District. “Handle with Care can make a big difference for some of these kiddos that need us to understand where they are coming from.”

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Reporter Ken Park can be reached by email at [email protected]

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