ACF Region II Highlights Hurricane Sandy Efforts during the Past Year

The Administration for Children and Families (ACF) partnered with New York and New Jersey officials to activate two Children, Youth and Families Youth Task Forces.

 

New Jersey Child Task Force

 

  • Presentations were held throughout NJ on “Supporting Children in the Aftermath of a Disaster,” co-sponsored by the NJ Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
  • A triage assessment instrument was developed entitled, “Impacts of Super Storm Sandy: Head Start Program Assessment Guide,” with the primary purpose of working  with Head Start/Early Head Start Directors to identify mental health-related needs of children and families impacted by Hurricane Sandy.
  • Home Depot was identified as a resource to supply materials through small grant requests.   Proposals were submitted from individuals seeking help for their preschools, child care facilities or community centers affected by Superstorm Sandy.  
  • Save the Children provided materials and supplies to affected child care centers, and offered their Journeys of Hope curriculum program for children of a wide range of ages.
  • Coordination efforts were made with traumatic-loss coalitions, early-childhood experts, behavioral health system and crisis counseling staff regarding existing services and infrastructure; support was made available through FEMA.
  • Crisis counselors and child specialists were located in disaster recovery centers. The Traumatic Loss Coalition deployed approximately 100 crisis counselors to the impacted counties.
  • A registry of infant/early childhood specialists with over 90 volunteers was developed.
  • Efforts were made to provide technical support and emergency responses in a culturally competent manner, which maximized the benefits of the community. . 

 

New York Child Task Force

 

  • Partnered with NYC Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies through the Child Care Consortium and collaborated with Save the Children to conduct New York City Child Care Damage Assessments to meet the needs of families not eligible for assistance or unaware that child care services assistance was available. 
  • New York Children’s Issues Task Force members, the Committee on Hispanic Children and Families (CHCF) and the Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies conducted outreach to immigrant families.  Partner organization CHCF created a brochure, “Guide to help for Latino Residents in Staten Island.” 

 

PRIVATE FUNDING

 

The New York Children’s Issues Task Force facilitated communication between donors and child care program providers to match donations and providers’ needs.  Some providers attempted to restart their operations while others relocated to alternate sites and worked to get back to their original sites.

MENTAL HEALTH SUPPORTS FOR CHILDREN AND FAMILIES

 

  • The New York Children’s Issues Task Force members pooled resources and expertise to focus on behavioral health and mitigate mental health issues, build resilience for the future, and prepare for the next disaster. 
  • Project Hope, a FEMA-funded crisis counseling program, provided a field coordinator to focus on children and family mental health needs.  Project Hope canvassed families through local agencies, schools and children’s centers to promote resiliency-building skills.  They provided a 1-800 phone number through LifeNet and conducted presentations to inform localities of its resources.
  • The ACF Office of Head Start (OHS) assembled a mental health response team/task force to work with state and federal teams to provide immediate and on-going mental health support for children, families and program staff.  
  • OHS provided a triage assessment instrument, “Impacts of Super Storm Sandy: Head Start Program Assessment Guide” to assist the mental health response team in identifying and documenting programs’ mental health support needs.  The goals of the assessment tool was to:
    • Provide helpful information for mental health providers about OHS programs
    • Triage the mental heal needs of program participants and create an action plan for support.
  • OHS released two Information Memorandums:(1) IM-HS-12-06 Hurricane Sandy, which allowed programs flexibility to broadly serve families; (2) IM-HS-12-07 Supporting Children and Families after Hurricane Sandy, which provided mental health resources for families experiencing crises. 
  • SAMSHA offered two-day training on mental health first aid certification in February 2013.
  • Children’s Health Fund disaster response expertise led to the development of a mental health psycho-social model suitable for working with children, families, non-profit organizations, as well as schools and their staff.  They also developed materials for children to reduce stress. . The Task Force mental health subcommittee conducted outreach to a variety of organizations providing services.
  • Mental Health subcommittee established, developed, and approved a resource list for distribution.  The community was encouraged to provide feedback regarding more specialized mental health needs.
  • The Task Force promoted the inclusion of Child Care rebuilding as a priority for Sandy disaster funding. New York State has awarded $10 million in SSBG funds to 320 child care providers to the NY child care community.

 

 

ENVIRONMENTAL CONSIDERATIONS

 

  • An EPA/HHS Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) allowed ACF to offer an informational teleconference to approximately 1,500 NJ and NY Child Care and Head Start providers on Post-Storm Environmental Considerations, including topics such as how to safely return children to day care facilities that were affected by flooding, storms, or hurricanes, as well as information on indoor air quality and mold, the mitigations that can be done, and how to conduct safe cleanup. 
  • The Office of Head Start hosted a webinar on Environmental Quality, which focused on indoor and outdoor air and environmental quality, including how to contract with a qualified environmental testing service.  Remediation of identified environmental issues, including HVAC system impacts and use of HEPA filters, was addressed. 

 

OTHER:

 

  • The Region II Office of Head Start Hurricane Sandy Relief Team has been invited to attend the EOC of Nassau Head Start program one-year commemoration program on Tuesday October 29, 2013 at a Long Beach site, which was completely destroyed by Hurricane Sandy.

 

  • On Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2013, the Office of Head Start will host a webinar on mental health issues that will provide grantees with valuable information and resources to support their continued work with children, families, and staff who may be experiencing recurring trauma. Additionally, information will be provided on the importance of integrating mental health supports after a traumatic event and service enhancements that can support children, families, and staff. 

 

  • On October 29, 2013, the Regional Administrator has been invited to attend a State of New Jersey Prayer Service One Year After the Storm:  Praying for Recovery, Restoration, & Resiliency in Newark, New Jersey.

 

  • New Jersey residents will join together from all faiths for a special prayer service marking the one year anniversary of Superstorm Sandy. Pastor Joe A. Carter of The New Hope Baptist Church will preside over the service for those who have been affected by the storm, especially those who are still displaced and despaired.

 

  • On October 29th, the Regional Administrator has been invited to accompany the HHS Region II Recover Lead and Region II Emergency Coordinators on a progress tour of New York areas impacted by Sandy, One Year Ago.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Information provided by:
Joyce A. Thomas, Regional Administrator
ACF Region II
US Department of Health and Human Services
26 Federal Plaza- Room 4114
New York, New York 10278