Integrating Children’s Needs into Preparedness

NPLI Distinguished Visiting Fellow Richard Serino co-authored a piece for The Hill making the case for including the needs of children in all preparedness plans. Serino and his co-author, Jeff Schlegelmilch, argued:

Children represent nearly a quarter of the U.S. population — a massive cohort impacted by a disaster that is dependent on the rest of the community. Children lack the capacity to advocate for, and in some cases, event articulate their needs. So they require a higher level of attention in our planning, assessments and recovery frameworks.

The advocate support for the bipartisan Homeland Security for Children Act (H.R. 1372) which will direct FEMA to “integrate planning for children in disasters into all facets of response, and includes the appointment of a technical expert” among other measures.

Serino and Schlegelmilch note:

When a disaster strikes, the lifetime trajectory for the children is disrupted. The ability to understand and accommodate their needs is vital, not only to their future but to our own.

Research has also shown that children are the bellwethers of recovery, and that the trajectory of a community after a disaster is closely linked to the recovery of its children. But these needs are not often understood and are lost in the cacophony immediately after a disaster.

H.R. 1372 is one step toward a policy framework that will ensure that the needs of children will be taken into account from the beginning. According to Serino and Schlegelmilch, these actions will pay dividends in community resilience and short- and long-term economic productivity.