EIIP Virtual Forum Presentation — September 9, 2009

Addressing Children's Unique Needs During Disasters
Recommendations from Save the Children

Jeanne-Aimée De Marrais
Director, Domestic Emergencies Unit
Save the Children

Amy Sebring
EIIP Moderator

The following has been prepared from a transcription of the recording. The complete slide set (Adobe PDF) may be downloaded from http://www.emforum.org/vforum/SaveTheChildren/ChildrenInEmergencies.pdf for ease of printing.

[Welcome / Introduction]

Amy Sebring: Good morning/afternoon everyone. Welcome to EMforum.org. We are glad you could join us today. As all of you know, September is National Preparedness Month and one area that may need closer attention is the unique needs of children in disasters, our topic today.

We first visited this topic about two years ago with Lori Peek from Colorado State University, and you can find that transcript in our archives if you are interested. [http://www.emforum.org/vforum/lc070725.htm]

We thought it was time to revisit the topic since there have been some related developments since then, including a recent Congressional hearing and the formation of a Children’s Working Group at FEMA. Save the Children also recently released a report card for the states on various planning aspects, along with specific recommendations. These resources, along with the National Commission on Children and Disasters Website, are linked from today’s Background Page.

A somewhat related survey on our home page asks, "Is pediatric care addressed adequately in medical response plans? Yes or No. Please take a moment to participate and review the results thus far.

[Slide 1]

Now it is my great pleasure to introduce today’s guest. Jeanne-Aimée De Marrais is the Director of Save the Children's Domestic Emergencies Unit. She was instrumental in establishing the Unit in 2006, helping to develop the strategic plan, build response capacity, and lead preparedness, response and recovery program planning and implementation.

Jeanne-Aimée serves as Team Leader on Save the Children disaster response teams and manages the US REDI Team's 43 members. She worked for 14 months on the Gulf Coast helping create and lead Save the Children's Hurricane Katrina Response programs in Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama. She also led Save the Children's responses to: the 2007 Southern California Wildfires; spring 2008 tornadoes in Tennessee and Arkansas, June 2008 mid-western floods in Iowa and Indiana; and summer 2009 Hurricanes Dolly, Gustav and Ike.

Additional biographical detail is also posted on our Background Page. Welcome Jeanne-Aimée, and thank you very much for being with us today. I now turn the floor over to you to start us off please.


Jeanne-Aimée De Marrais: Thank you so much for that introduction. Many of you may know of Save the Children from our international work, and until fairly recently people weren’t as aware that we were actually started in the United States and have been serving children in the United States for more than 76 years now.

[Slide 2]

We currently serve children in 110 countries around the world, and more than half of our budget is dedicated to disaster work. We are very, very committed to helping reduce the risk for children in disasters and helping improve children’s wellbeing when natural or manmade disasters strike.

[Slide 3]

As many of you on the call, I’m sure, are very aware, the number of natural disasters is on the rise. There has been a 26% increase over the last 5 years. Even though this year has been very quiet (knock on wood), we know that there is an awful lot that is happening around the world as well as in the United States.

[Slide 4]

For children in the US, more than 90% of children live in parts of the country that are at risk for one or more natural disasters. We know that children are most at risk when they are away from their families, their regular caregivers. For kids who are at school, and particularly young children who are in child care settings, who live in areas that are at higher risk for natural disasters, preparedness measures are critically important to helping insure they stay safe.

[Slide 5]

The tragedy in the United States, though, and the reality, is that very often children are invisible and have been invisible in terms of emergency planning and emergency management, not just by officials at FEMA (and that is starting to change, which is really exciting, and I’ll talk more about that), but also in school plans, child care planning, and local community planning and local emergency management planning. Very often children are not even on the radar screen.

The reality right now is that the United States has much better and much more extensive plans in place for the safe evacuation and sheltering of pets than we do for children. (I have a dog—I love pets, but I am absolutely committed to the fact that this needs to change.) We need to have very good preparedness planning to help safeguard children.

Amy made reference to the fact that earlier this year, we created the second report card on how states are doing in terms of preparing. We looked at only four very basic (this is as basic as it comes) measures of preparedness—three for child care, and one for schools. The things we looked at—does the state require a written evacuation plan for multi-hazards? This goes beyond the basic fire drill plan. Is there a requirement for a written evacuation plan?

Is there a written reunification plan in place, so that if children have to be evacuated during the day, and parents are not there, they are in child care, or they are in school, is there a plan in place to help reunify children?

We know that after Katrina it took up to 6 months to reunify the last child with their family. Katrina was a known event for 5 days ahead of time. Communities planned for it. Schools were closed, child care centers were closed. But there were thousands of children who ended up having to be reunified with their parents or regular caregivers after that event. The United States still does not have adequate plans in place for reunification.

Again, an evacuation plan for multi-hazards, reunification plans, child care centers must have a written plan that includes the needs of children who have special needs, children with cognitive or physical disabilities.

The fourth measure we looked at was for K-12 schools. Is there a written procedure in place for multi-risk disasters? Only 7 states in the United States currently have all 4 of these plans in place. The encouraging news is that when we raised this issue and brought it to people’s attention, a number of states have started to work to either introduce legislation or change policies and procedures to help rectify this situation and put better planning in place for children.

We will do another report card next year and hopefully we will be able to report back much better findings. The report card is available on Save the Children’s website as well as the EM Forum website.

[Slide 6]

If we look at what are some of the issues and what are some of the steps that Save the Children is taking to help insure that the comprehensive needs of children are met in disasters?

[Slide 7]

Save the Children’s work and the work that I help direct is focuses largely on preparedness now, because we know that if you prepare before a disaster, you will have a better outcome for children. We also have a national partnership with the Red Cross which we will talk more about, working on response programming during the initial phase after a disaster helping safeguard children in shelters.

We also work in recovery. We do a lot of work in child care, to help child care centers and facilities recover after a disaster. Last year, we served over 120,000 children in the United States. The word is getting out. We’re doing a lot of good things on the ground, which is exciting, and building a lot of strong partnerships for children.

[Slide 8]

Our key priority this year—we know it’s not enough to work at the grass roots level. That is essential work, but we also have to change policy. We need to change the way this country thinks about children. Last year, Save the Children helped introduce legislation to create a National Commission on Children and Disasters.

Mark Shriver, my boss at Save the Children, currently chairs that commission. They are, next week, about to release an interim report. I encourage everyone on this call to go to their website and read their report. [See http://www.childrenanddisasters.acf.hhs.gov/InterimReport_FullDraft_V16_web.pdf] It is the best comprehensive view of all the gaps that exist—I guess no one can get all of the gaps—but certainly many, many, many of the gaps that exist in communities, in our states and in federal planning for children.

Again, it’s a great document. I’ve seen the draft of it, and when the official one is released next week, it will be a tremendous resource to really highlight the comprehensive gaps in our planning for children.

Save the Children also served on FEMA’s National Advisory Council. We are the only child-focused advocate on that council. We are National VOAD and State VOAD member in a number of states.

On this slide, when we say we are a state advocate for child care regulations, now that we are doing an annual assessment of child care regulations and which states are truly prepared, we’ve been approached by eight states since the report was released earlier this summer. We are working with them to develop legislation to help ensure that their states are also going to be on the list truly ready to help support children.

[Slide 9]

The exciting news in all of this is that over the last year and a half, there has been tremendous progress and change and we’re starting to really see a shift toward including children. The new administration, and Secretary Napolitano and Craig Fugate, have all very publicly stated their support for ensuring children’s needs are met.

As Amy said, there has been a working group created at FEMA, not as an afterthought, but really central to the work that they are doing to start to address the needs of children. We have created this summer new guidelines for sheltering. When you set up a mass shelter, it’s going to be rolled out and piloted this summer by the Red Cross, when and if any mass shelters are opened, and will be rolled out throughout the Red Cross structure over the coming year.

Again, tremendous progress is being made, but we know that so much more needs to be done.

[Slide 10]

Save the Children is creating a new, major initiative. Last year we did a pilot program working with the city of Tulsa, Oklahoma. They are considered to be one of the best-prepared cities in the United States. We brought together more than 50 different groups of child advocates within the Tulsa community and worked with them to provide technical guidance on the needs of children in disasters.

We provided training to people who actually work on the initial response phase, as well as business continuity training, and disaster recovery training to child care workers. We worked with schools, and we worked directly with children and families in that community.

We’re taking that model this year and into 2010 into new high-risk areas. We intend to have an initiative in Southern California. We have an initiative underway working with 4 cities in Texas. We have an initiative on the Gulf Coast working with New Orleans and the Mississippi coast. We also have a major partnership with New York City and Washington, D.C. to help them better prepare to save our children.

[Slide 11]

We know we can’t do it alone, though. Save the Children is just one entity. We are, at this point, completely funded by private dollars. We don’t receive any federal funding. We’re hoping to change that in the future, but for right now it’s all private funding. Our success is based upon partnerships—building strong partnerships that really support children.

As I mentioned earlier, we have a partnership with the American Red Cross. Through that partnership, the goal is every time a shelter opens in this country, it will be provided with a kit of materials for children to set up a safe play area for children. I’ll talk a little bit more about this later in the presentation, but Save the Children has pre-positioned 500 of these shelter kits for children in Red Cross warehouses. Those kits are available to be sent out immediately when large shelters open and children are there.

We also have a national partnership with AmeriCorps and NCCC (National Citizen Corps Council) so that we provide training to 1,200 NCCC members across the country. When they are deployed to serve in emergency responses, they have training in how to safeguard children and how to operate these safe-space areas for children.

[Slide 12]

A couple other key priorities; we know right now one of the biggest gaps in planning is supporting children’s emotional and psychosocial recovery (supporting all people’s psychosocial recoveries) after disasters. We are using our program to help develop the evidence base about what works—what is cost effective and what works to support children’s emotional recovery.

[Slide 13]

I’m also keeping a close eye on the time because I want to make sure we have enough room for questions and answers.

[Slide 14]

When a new disaster happens, when does Save the Children get involved? I’m sure some of you on the phone are saying "Well, we had a disaster last year and I didn’t see Save the Children on the ground".

We respond when the disaster meets these three primary criteria: Has the disaster overwhelmed the local community? For example, the wildfires that are ongoing in the L.A. area—very few shelters were open, most of the shelters had fewer than 20 residents, and it was well within the local framework.

We offered our support to the local Red Cross chapter, and they said for the time being, they are okay. Again, we get involved when it has overwhelmed the community.

The number of children has to be significant. We know in parts of the community there are huge retirement communities, and not as many communities of children. Again, we look to help and provide support when large numbers of children have been affected.

The last thing is: Do we have something to contribute? I’m sure some of you on the phone were involved with Florida after the tornadoes a couple of years ago, in Lady Lake, and we all know it was the first major disaster after Katrina, and my gosh, a gazillion local non-profit groups descended upon that area and actually ended up causing a lot more confusion than providing assistance.

Again, do we have something to offer, and does the local community need our assistance in the recovery?

[Slide 15]

The programs we provide in the immediate post-disaster phase—again, we have the partnership with the Red Cross, we go into the shelters and we provide safe space activities for children. We also provide technical support and training to shelter leadership and management. These are no-cost and low-cost ways to help set up shelters, to make sure they are safer environments for children.

We also partnered with FEMA after Hurricane Ike to create a new shelter assessment tool that they used in the greater San Antonio area to assess, are the particularly spontaneous shelters, perhaps not the major shelters, but the second and third tier shelters, to quickly assess—are they safe? Do they provide support programs for children? Do they provide other support programs for the residents who are there? Again, we’re looking in every possible way to ensure that shelters are as safe as possible for children.

[Slide 16]

I already spoke about the kits.

[Slide 17]

We provide psychosocial—these are resiliency building programs. We do these in partnerships with schools and mental health organizations. We’ve provided these, and continue to provide them extensively throughout the Gulf Coast region, we’ve provided them in Southern California, and we’ve provided them after the tornadoes in Tennessee and Arkansas.

Save the Children has done these programs throughout the world and we are considered one of the global leaders in helping provide these resiliency building and emotional recovery programs for children.

[Slide 18]

Child care restoration—this is one of the largest gaps in planning in the United States. Child care is currently not considered an essential service under Stafford, and so child care facilities are not eligible for emergency recovery assistance. For anyone whose family relies upon child care, so that they can work, knows that child care absolutely is essential.

We have worked with states, in Mississippi after Katrina, we worked with the community of Pass Christian; all of their child care was destroyed during Katrina. When families came back and started to try to dig out and started to try to rebuild their lives and reestablish their lives, there was no care available for their young children.

We partnered with the State of Mississippi Child Care Licensing, and we partnered with FEMA, and with the City of Pass Christian, and created emergency standards for child care, and underwrote the cost of care for about 50 children in that community for 13 months until we were able to actually help rebuild and restore regular child care facilities.

This is one of the biggest gaps in planning. In your home community, do you know are the child care centers, not just centers, but also the family based care, on the radar screens of your emergency management officials? Do they know that we have to go to this site first to help find children or rescue children in the event something happens?

That is on a very basic level, but once an event does happen, do you have plans in place to help restore the care that your community really needs to come back financially?

[Slide 19]

We also distribute essential materials for children. These are simple things. A shelter from the Red Cross comes with one package of diapers. Some of the shelter that we’ve been in, the larger shelters, following Hurricane Ike, had over 1,500 children in them. We knew there was a huge gap in planning in terms of providing essential materials—diapers and baby wipes. We provided pack-n-play cribs, just another huge gap in communities.

After the Iowa floods, in one of the bigger shelters, there was a single dad there who had two very young children with him, and one was a toddler. He was very involved with the children, very involved in their care, playing with them and making sure they were okay. He and the toddler lay down on cots to take a rest. The dad fell asleep more soundly than he realized. The toddler got up, wandered out of the shelter to the edge of a highway. It was as though the child was invisible—not a single person stopped the child or realized there was a problem. I happened to go out to my car to get something out of it, saw the child, recognized the child, brought the child back in.

That was my own personal "a-ha" moment where I realized we need to provide cribs to these shelters, little pack-n-play cribs, to help ensure that children are safe. We partnered with Toys ‘R’Us, and they helped supply us with last summer with more than 1,000 of the pack-n-play cribs that we were able to distribute and donate to the larger shelters after Gustav and Ike.

Even I’m having "a-ha" moments, and I work with this stuff all the time, to realize gaps in our thinking and planning for safeguarding children. I think that might be the last slide.

Amy Sebring: Yes it is. Thank you very much Jeanne-Aimée. We’re looking forward to a better report card next year. Now, to proceed to our Q&A.

[Audience Questions & Answers]

Jennifer Johnson: Can you explain some of the work you do in Georgia?

Jeanne-Aimée De Marrais: We have what we call "long term sites" in Georgia. These sites serve children in very impoverished rural areas with literacy and obesity prevention. In terms of disaster response programs, there hasn’t been a large enough one to require our assistance at this point. I know the Red Cross has a number of our safe-space kits warehoused in Georgia that are pre-positioned for serving the Southeast area.

I don’t know if that answers your question. We are very receptive to coming and doing community training. We would welcome the chance to come to Georgia and do community training. As of right now, we don’t have the funding to take on another high-risk area initiative. Quite frankly, Georgia wouldn’t be as high risk as perhaps Florida. Florida is on our list hopefully for next year. We would love to work more in Georgia—it’s just a question of funding.

Rey Thompson: A look at the Report Card makes me wonder who assessed the States and how the evaluation was conducted. Could you comment on this process?

Jeanne-Aimée De Marrais: Save the Children hired a researcher who reached out to all 50 states and the District of Columbia, and kept a very detailed log of each of the entities that she contacted. The requirement was that it had to be a written plan, either a piece of legislation or a written policy at the state level.

If you have particular questions about a state, we’d be happy to give you why certain states—we were contacted after we released the report. A few states contacted us and said, "I thought we had this in place". While certain states met some of the requirements, for example, the K-12 schools requirement that you have a multi-risk written disaster plan applied to some states’ public schools, but they did not include the private school sector. It’s for all K-12 schools in the state.

If you have specific questions about your state and how your state was ranked on here, I’m happy to follow up with you after this call and let you know.

Lee Eisen: Does your organization provide services in the Phoenix AZ area?

Jeanne-Aimée De Marrais: If there is a large scale disaster in the Phoenix, Arizona area, then the answer would be yes.

Jolanta Smolen: Hello, I was involved in hurricane Katrina at the FEMA trailer park, Renaissance Village in Baton Rouge for over 4 years. I was wondering if Save the Children takes local cultural elements in developing programmatic assistance.

Jeanne-Aimée De Marrais: Absolutely. I think especially because we are a global organization, we are very aware of the importance of local culture. We are also very aware of the need to have community gathering places, a normal element of community fabric, so to speak, particularly when they’re setting up a temporary housing site.

Those things include simple things like noise control, noise ordinances, street signs that help regulate traffic flow, bus stops for children, playgrounds for children, and green spaces for children. But the community gathering point is a critically important thing because that enables the people in the community to come together to identify the issues that are of most importance to them and also to help build strategies to work with outside partners to help build strategies to address those issues.

We worked in about 10 of the FEMA housing camps, and we actually did an assessment of 30 of them and found very, very egregious problems at many of them. Then FEMA allowed us to come in and partner at 10 of the camps and provide programming for children, we brought in portable trailers and set up community centers, we held meetings with local residents.

Even though we thought we had some idea what the problems in the communities were, it always amazed me that the local residents obviously know it best and are able to best identify what their needs are.

Whether that is bringing in specific foods to meet certain cultural needs—for example, the Vietnamese community in Alabama and along the Mississippi coast after Katrina, they don’t eat white bread and for the most part they really wanted to have rice and different foods supplied to them. We were able to help, number one, provide those items initially, and then to help bring that to attention to those that were doing the feeding to make sure the food was culturally appropriate.

Pam Brasher: What steps are being taken to close the gap for child care? Child care needs to operate for first responders as well as in shelters and then in rebuilding.

Jeanne-Aimée De Marrais: That is a great question. The answer so far is, not enough. The report that is about to be released next week highlights a number of the different issues, including the need for care for first responders and the need for non-traditional care, around the clock care potentially for the children of first responders as well as for the children of effected families.

I’m not sure what the final answer is going to be because child care centers operate as for-profit entities. It’s going to be much harder to get them approved for emergency assistance funding. There are a number of proposals that have been suggested or put forward in terms of providing a special pot of money for the Federal Child Care Bureau to provide immediate disaster recovery assistance, but that hasn’t yet been approved.

Other options, allowing states different waivers and permission to provide different waivers to help underwrite the cost of care immediately following disasters—child care is one of the more complex issues. I would really encourage you to look at the report. It sounds like, from your question, that you actually have a very good base in this. The report highlights many of the different layers and elements that are involved in the child care issue, in all phases of disaster planning.

There’s everything from insuring that once a disaster happens that the children are actually physically safe who are at that child care center, to recovering it, to providing the care for emergency workers and first responders—so again, just huge numbers of issues. This is a huge area that needs additional work this coming year.

Amy Sebring:
I wonder if you could tell me a little bit more about the Commission. Is that established for a limited time period? Will they be producing a final report?

Jeanne-Aimée De Marrais: Yes, it is in legislation. It is established for a few years—we’re hoping it will continue longer term, and it seems to have the verbal support of this administration for continuing the work and for being very responsive to the issues that have been raised. The interim report, as I said, comes out next week, and then I believe (and I apologize, I’m not sure) it’s either 6 months or 12 months from now when the final initial report comes out with the findings. I can certainly follow up with Amy and let you know when to anticipate the final report.

[From the Commission’s Charter: "The Commission is subject to biennial renewal and shall terminate no later than 180 days after the date on which the Final Report is submitted. The Final Report is due no later than two years after the date of the Commission's first meeting."]

Eleanor Jewett: Good afternoon, and thank you for your presentation today. Could you define what "local community overwhelmed" means? Who determines what "overwhelmed" is. And how do they determine that? Is it at all tied to declared disasters?

Jeanne-Aimée De Marrais: For us, it’s not only tied to a formally, like a Presidentially declared disaster. "Overwhelms local community" means that they reach out to the state, and the state reaches out to request additional assistance. If it is a state where Save the Children is already working, very often we will reach out. If we know the local community or the local county, we would reach out directly to them, or if we know the governor’s office, we would reach out and offer our assistance at that level.

It’s really when it’s beyond the ability of the local area or the state to really effectively respond and manage the event. Very often, it also comes down to sheltering. That is certainly one of the biggest indicators we have. Have the people who have been affected been absorbed by family, by local friends and family and that sort of thing, or are there large numbers of people who don’t have resources and are now living in shelters for potentially an extended period of time?

Gloria Hale: Is there a web site that shares best practices of states that have met the 4 basic measures for preparedness? How can states who have not met all measures meet them in the future?

Jeanne-Aimée De Marrais: The National Commission Report will certainly have some of that. Save the Children’s policy team who works with the states can also provide examples of best practices or best language or how certain states have been effective in introducing language in legislation or getting the thing passed. They can certainly provide examples of that. If you follow up with me, I can shoot you over to the policy team.

Amy Sebring:
Are you seeing improvement in the child mental health during the recovery phase? Are you seeing some glimmers of hope there? Is it important for children’s recovery to make them feel like they’re helping in some manner?

Jeanne-Aimée De Marrais: Those are two very different questions. There is a huge, huge deficit or gap in the U.S. in terms of providing regular mental health services for children. When a disaster happens, I would think the gap widens even more. Even though additional services are provided for a little while after a disaster, there is still a huge unmet need for children.

There have been a few studies coming out of New Orleans—just the profound needs that continue to exist for recovery support. How much of that trauma is directly related to the event, and some of the trauma is just directly related to the children’s lives. Children living in poverty, one of our psychosocial staff - psychosocial expert- say for many of the children that we serve, the children living in the most impoverished settings in this country, every day is a disaster in their lives.

The need for these children for ongoing emotional and mental health, and psychosocial support is huge. That a huge unmet need.

The second question was about child empowerment. Absolutely, including children in disaster preparedness (at levels that are appropriate to them)—so engaging teens in helping prepare their communities — is tremendously empowering, and a tremendous untapped resource in many areas.

I would strongly encourage to engage teens and older children in preparedness. Huge numbers of people, great energy, lots of creativity, and very often children are the ones that help bring their parents around, you know, to the seatbelt initiative and through the no smoking ad campaign and all of that.

Very often, that was the children going home and saying "Stop smoking, Mom," and "Everybody needs to put on a seatbelt". Every day the children kind of driving and pounding the issue home is what changed behaviors. I think the same is true potentially for children helping change the way we think about and prepare for disasters for children.

Mary Clark: Are you collaborating with the Homeless Children's Initiative? Please contact naehcy.org.

Jeanne-Aimée De Marrais: They are not yet one of our partners, but we are open to partnering with any and every entity. We have worked a little bit with the Foster Care Initiative in certain states, but that one specific collaborative, I’m not aware of that we have yet worked with.

Amy Sebring:
In the states where you worked on legislation, many of these regulations are in Child Protective Services or a health entity that regulates day care. Do you find challenges in getting those response agencies to coordinate with the emergency management agencies either at the state or local level?

Jeanne-Aimée De Marrais: It varies state by state. Child care is regulated on a state by state basis. Where child care licensing falls, or child care regulations fall—in some states it’s under the Health Department, in some states it’s under the Department of Education, and in other states it’s Human Services, so that varies.

The level of receptivity also varies state by state. I think that as people become aware of it, there are different levels, and how an issue comes to different state management people. Some welcome it, and others, it’s a little bit more of an uphill battle. That’s the reality of it. But it’s a battle worth fighting and it’s certainly the right issue.

Lauren O'Brien: Do you have some sample All Hazards Plans for schools and daycares that we can use to help providers build a complete plan?

Jeanne-Aimée De Marrais: The policy team does have samples of All Hazards planning, or can certainly point you to the states where we found the best of the plans that are out there.

Amy Sebring: Can you tell us a little bit more about the training and the approach you are taking in the training?

Jeanne-Aimée De Marrais: The first piece that is accessible to everybody on the Save the Children website, we have a community planning tool that asks a number of questions. It at least starts communities to think about children, and about including the needs of children in their own plans.

We know every community’s plan is going to be different. How communities want to take care of their children or manage children in disasters is going to be very different. That’s why, instead of saying "you must do X, Y, and Z", we raise the issues so that people start thinking about it.

The way, what I call the city initiative, the way the initiative working with high-risk regions works is, one of the first things we do is hold a community stakeholder’s meeting, where we bring together all the entities that are involved in children’s lives, even the groups that don’t traditionally think of themselves involved in emergency management, but who are involved with children, we try to get them at the table.

Then we provide a lot of education and discussion about the real issues that arise for children when disasters happen. We ask a lot of questions. Then, after a couple of these stakeholders meetings, we drill down more. We start to work with individual departments. We might be working with the schools, or with the child care community, or with emergency managers, to help drill down in their plan and make sure their plans are truly including children’s needs.

Very often it’s one thing to see it on paper, and it’s another to hear why is that important. What different does it make? When we can give concrete examples from our work on other disasters, it’s like the light bulb goes on and people are like, "Oh my gosh, I never even thought of that". That’s a little bit of how it works.

Then we continue over the course of the year to provide training to different sectors in the community. We train child care providers and business continuity, as well as in disaster safety procedures for children. We work with schools, and work really with everybody who is involved in kids’ lives.

We provide disaster preparedness workshops for children who are in the area. So many of these areas where we work, every couple of years they are hit by another disaster. To build their resilience and give them a greater sense of being prepared, and a better sense of control in their lives, we help provide these workshops to them.

Amy Sebring:
With all the work that has been done with the swine flu potential this past Spring and coming up this Fall, it seems to have brought some of the children’s issues. How do you feel that is going?

Jeanne-Aimée De Marrais: We have some concerns about it. We know that the current administration is doing a lot to try to improve communications so that information is going to be disseminated very, very well. We know that there is a huge commitment to getting the new vaccine approved and rolled out to initially priority audiences, priority individuals in hopefully October.

But we do have a lot of concerns. The children’s feeding program—so many children, literally millions of children in this country, rely upon the school feeding program for one or more, and for some children it’s two or three meals a day, that are provided through their schools. If schools close for extended periods of time, and if communities cannot come together in traditional ways (because you’re not going to open shelters during a huge H1N1 outbreak, you’re not going to open up places where people congregate, because that’s only going to help spread the flu), what’s the plan?

Are there effective plans in place? And we know in terms of feeding, there are not yet effective plans in place on how you’re going to get the food out to children who really depend upon it. We know there are not enough child respirators in this country. Again, there are just gaps in planning for how can families continue to work if child care centers need to be closed because of H1N1, or schools.

In so many different ways, there is not yet sufficient planning. I think a lot of good things were learned during the spring outbreak, and thank God it was mild, or it didn’t have as severe an effect on people. I think they are expecting, and it has already started, a much larger outbreak this fall. There’s still a lot of work to be done so that we’re truly prepared.


Amy Sebring: Time to wrap for today. Thank you very much Jeanne-Aimée for an excellent job, and taking the time to share this information with us. Did you want to provide your contact information?

Jeanne-Aimée De Marrais: Yes, my e-mail is [email protected]

Amy Sebring: Please stand by just a moment while we make a couple of quick announcements. Again, the recording should be available later this afternoon. If you are not on our mailing list and would like to get notices of future sessions and availability of transcripts, just go to our home page to Subscribe, or you can sign up for our RSS Feed, or follow us on Twitter.

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Thanks to everyone for participating today and for all the excellent questions. Please join us next time. Until then, we stand adjourned. Have a great day everyone!