WASHINGTON--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Two-and-a-half weeks after Superstorm Sandy devastated the East Coast—the memories of loss and destruction still fresh on the nation’s mind—Save the Children convened leading emergency and child care experts to ensure that children’s unique needs will be met when the next disaster strikes.
“Children are always the most vulnerable during a disaster,” said Mark Shriver, Senior Vice President of Save the Children’s U.S. Programs. “And for the first time, we have brought together leading national, state and local voices in the areas of emergency preparedness and child care, united by one mission—keeping America’s kids safe.”
Nearly 100 professionals representing government agencies, private organizations and child care facilities gathered yesterday at the Child Care Emergency Preparedness Symposium, at the Capital Hilton in Washington, D.C., to discuss best policies and practice in preparing for the worst. The event was hosted by Save the Children, in partnership with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Child Care Aware of America and the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC).
The goal of the symposium is to ensure collaboration at all levels—from federal and state governments to private organizations to home-run day care facilities—so that all caregivers will be equipped with the skills and resources they need to protect the 11 million children under the age of 5 who are in child care on any given day.
Keynote speakers included Craig Fugate, Administrator for the Federal Emergency Management Agency; Senator Mary Landrieu (D-La); Linda Smith, Deputy Assistant Secretary at the Administration for Children and Families; and Mark Shriver, Senior Vice President of Save the Children’s U.S. Programs.
Recently returned from visits to Sandy-affected communities in New Jersey and New York, Administrator Fugate discussed the critical role of child care as an essential service in getting a community back to normalcy after a disaster like Sandy. Fugate emphasized the necessity of collaboration between national, state, and local stakeholders in making meaningful change for children.
“When we’re preparing for disasters, children need to be part of the plan,” said FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate. “Children comprise about one quarter of the U.S. population and are often the most vulnerable in emergencies and disasters. Engaging children and child care professionals is an integral step in preparing our nation for the hazards our communities face."
Sen. Landrieu, who was instrumental in authoring and passing a long-term Hurricane Katrina recovery bill, which included a number of child care provisions, spoke about the importance of making children’s needs a policy priority.
"Children are disproportionally affected by disasters. They are also the heart of their families, and parents who cannot find a safe and productive environment for them after disaster strikes, including an open school or child care center, cannot return to work or begin rebuilding their home or business,” said Sen. Landrieu. “These parents are first responders, teachers, nurses, utility repairmen, construction workers, and other citizens who play a critical role in the community's return to normalcy. I commend Save the Children for hosting this important symposium to help us better protect our most precious resource and build more resilient communities."
Fueling the urgency for preparedness improvements, Save the Children’s National Report Card of Protecting Children During Disasters found that an astounding 31 states do not require all regulated child care facilities to meet at least one of three basic emergency preparedness standards, potentially leaving thousands of our most vulnerable citizens unprotected during disasters. The three child care standards call for written plans for evacuation and relocation and for family reunification following an emergency, as well as specific plans to assist children with disabilities and those with access and functional needs.
“Most parents assume that when they drop their kids off for the day, their children will be safe if disaster strikes,” said Shriver. “But our new survey shows that only 20 states require the basic emergency preparedness regulations for child care facilities.”
Added Shriver, “The failure by states to establish basic emergency preparedness regulations for the nation’s youngest and most vulnerable children in child care puts many of these children at great risk should a disaster strike.”
The Child Care Emergency Preparedness Symposium marks the official launch of Save the Children’s U.S. Center for Child Development and Resiliency, an online forum that endeavors to equip professionals, volunteers and families with the skills and resources needed to give all children a better chance for a brighter future. Coinciding with the event, Save the Children released its new Child Care Emergency Preparedness Training, now available on the U.S. Center.
About Save the Children
Save the Children works to break the cycle of poverty and improve the lives of children by ensuring they have the resources they need—access to quality education, healthy foods, and opportunities to grow and develop in a nurturing environment. When disasters strike, like hurricanes and wildfires, Save the Children is among the first on the ground, ensuring the needs of children are being met.
In the United States, Save the Children’s early childhood education, literacy, physical activity and nutrition, and emergency response programs reached more than 185,000 children last year alone. For more information, visit www.savethechildren.org/usa.