Are Children in Child Care Safe During Disasters?

Too many states fail to ensure the safety of children in child care during disasters

During normal working hours – which total more than 2,000 hours a year – the safety of nearly 68 million children is in the hands of school officials and child care providers.  Most parents logically assume that when they drop their children off at school or child care, they will be safe if disaster strikes.  But, a new report by Save the Children found that two-thirds of states fail to require basic emergency preparedness for child care programs and schools.  Thirty-three states and the District of Columbia do not meet four basic preparedness recommendations. Twenty-seven states do not require a plan that accounts for children with disabilities and infants and toddlers who can’t help themselves evacuate safely.  Twenty states do not even require an evacuation and relocation plan!

Children should be safe in child care – particularly during a disaster, which can strike with no warning.

Save the Children looked at four very basic disaster preparation requirements.

  • A Plan for Evacuating Children in Child Care. The state requires all regulated child care programs to have a written plan for evacuating and moving children to a safe location for multiple types of disasters. The plans must go beyond the provisions of a basic fire drill. [20 states do not require an evacuation plan].
  • A Plan for Reuniting Families after a Disaster.  The state requires all regulated child care programs to have a written policy to notify parents of an emergency and reunite parents with their children.  [18 states do not require a plan reuniting families after a disaster].
  •  A Plan for Children with Disabilities and Those with Access and Functional Needs.  The state requires all regulated child care programs to have a written plan that accounts for any special assistance an infant, toddler, or child with physical, emotional, behavioral or mental health challenges may need.  [27 states do not require a plan to address the needs of our most vulnerable young children].
  •  A Multi-Hazard Plan for K-12 Schools.  The state requires all K-12 schools to have a disaster plan that accounts for multiple types of hazards.  [9 states do not require a disaster plan for children in schools].

Five states (Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan and Montana) fail to meet any of the four requirements. Another eight states (Arizona, Georgia, Illinois, Maine, Nebraska, New Jersey, Oregon and South Dakota) fail to meet any of the requirements related to child care programs.

The Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG), the law that allocates funds to the states for child care and sets the framework for state child care laws, has no requirement with regard to disaster preparation for child care programs to ensure children’s safety.   Requiring emergency plans for child care programs as part of CCDBG makes sense.  Disaster plans and preparation can reduce chaos and danger when disaster hits.

Urge your Members of Congress today to require emergency plans for child care programs as part CCDBG reauthorization.  The safety of children in child care depends on it.

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