Last updated: February 04. 2014 11:49PM - 922 Views

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About 25 percent of West Virginia’s children live below the poverty line, and another 26 percent are a part of households that are considered low income — really just above poverty level.

Those difficult economic situations can take quite a toll on children in countless ways, from their health and home environment to the stability of their family and what they see in their day-to-day life.

That is not only a challenge for our communities, but also for our schools.

Teachers and administrators often play a key role in helping children deal with the stresses of their lives, but it helps to know what a child is going through — especially if it is a traumatic experience such as witnessing a crime, seeing abuse or watching a caregiver be arrested.

Last week local law enforcement and school officials unveiled an innovative effort to work together on behalf of children in such situations.

Called the “West Virginia Children Exposed to Violence Initiative,” the local pilot program will involve the Huntington Police Department and Spring Hill and Central City elementary schools.

When police officers respond to a crime or incident, there will be an extra effort to make note of any children or signs of children in the household. Officers will find out the names and ages of children, determine their relationship to adults involved in the incident and assess their well being.

There also will be training for officers on how to talk with the children about the incident, as well as subduing adults and interviewing witnesses in the presence of children.

Officers will then forward information about what occurred to HPD victim’s advocate, who will send a confidential “handle with care notice” to the schools involved, letting teachers know what their student has experienced. The program also includes training for educators about how to help traumatized children in school and provisions to refer students for other assessments or additional services.

Hopefully, that extra care can help children deal with these difficult situations, which are so often obstacles to learning and success in school. For too many, these pressures and a lack of support can mean falling behind in class, dropping out of school and back into the cycle of poverty.

We applaud these extra efforts to help children in school, because ultimately, it is that education that gives them the best chance to build a better life for themselves and our community.

— The Herald-Dispatch, Huntington

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