Today, Linda K. Smith, Executive Director of the National Association of Child Care Resource & Referral Agencies (NACCRRA) joined Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Representative Corinne Brown (D-FL03), and Mark Shriver, Chairperson of the National Commission on Children and Disasters at a press conference to push legislation protecting children affected by disasters as part of National Hurricane Preparedness Week. The Child Safety, Care and Education Continuity Act, which covers a wide range of areas affecting children and families, will require states to develop a disaster plan, as recommended by the National Commission on Children and Disasters that includes guidelines for evacuation, reunification, temporary operating standards, and special needs populations.
“Over 11 million children under the age of 5 are in child care each week,” said Linda K. Smith, Executive Director of NACCRRA. “Many of the nation’s 2.3 million child care workers are untrained for disasters and few states require child care programs to even plan for disasters other than fire. To have a comprehensive and viable disaster preparedness and recovery plan in place for child care providers will ensure that child care is no longer an after-thought in the time of crisis.
“Children are particularly vulnerable during a time of crisis,” said Smith. “Many are immobile and unable to communicate the most basic information to rescuers. It is critical that states develop and enact comprehensive emergency plans to safeguard the well-being of all children and their families.”
In 2007, in New Orleans, Louisiana, NACCRRA convened more than 20 organizations involved in disaster relief efforts. The meeting included presentations and panel discussions by experts from a diverse array of organizations which led to the development of NACCRRA’s report, Keeping Children Safe: A Policy Agenda for Child Care in Emergencies.
In the coming weeks, NACCRRA will release its latest report, Protecting Children in Child Care During Emergencies: Recommended State and National Standards for Family Child Care Homes and Child Care Centers and Supporting Rationale, which provides detailed, model child care preparedness standards for both family child care homes and child care centers that states can incorporate into their child care regulations to ensure children are protected during a disaster.
NACCRRA has been actively involved in efforts to assist, educate and raise awareness about disaster efforts for over a decade. In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, NACCRRA engaged in outreach efforts to help restore child care so families could begin to piece their lives back together. Additionally, NACCRRA launched Is Child Care Ready?, the nation’s first disaster preparedness initiative specifically for child care with the help of experts from organizations such as Save the Children; the federal Child Care Bureau; Mississippi State University; and representatives from Child Care Resource & Referral Agencies (CCR&Rs) from across the nation.
“We have learned so much in the last couple of years about the preparation necessary to keep children safe,” said Smith. “We know what parents and providers need to do before a disaster occurs as well as what is necessary to support child care as parents return to work or engage in clean-up efforts to restore communities.
“In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, children had few safe places to be while their parents tried to restore homes or stand in line for hours to fill out paperwork for government assistance,” continued Smith. “Families with children need safer options. Communities need help to ensure that child care is available so that parents can return to work or piece their lives back together. During National Hurricane Preparedness Week, it is most appropriate to recognize what we know can work and keep children safe, and this legislation would go a long way toward both. Disasters will happen; we need to be prepared. It’s time to have a plan.”