Post-Disaster Reunification Of Children: A Nationwide Approach PDF

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Post-Disaster Reunification ofChildren: A Nationwide ApproachNovember 2013

Post-Disaster Reunification of Children: A Nationwide ApproachAcknow ledgementsPost-Disaster Reunification of Children: A Nationwide Approach illustrates the significance ofwhole community collaboration and inclusive emergency planning by providing acomprehensive overview of the coordination processes necessary to reunify children separatedfrom their parents or legal guardians in the event of a large-scale disaster and reflects how thewhole community—to include nongovernmental organizations such as Voluntary OrganizationsActive in Disaster, faith-based and community organizations, disability and pediatricorganizations, Federal and private sector partners, and civic action committees—can worktogether to achieve one wide ranging mission.Reunifying unaccompanied minors and separated or missing children with their parents or legalguardians in the aftermath of a disaster is a priority. Accomplishing this goal requires theefficient, coordinated use of resources and efforts from across the whole community and alllevels of government. This document reflects our Nation’s first attempt to establish a holistic andfundamental baseline for reunifying children separated as a result of a disaster and aims to assistlocal, state, tribal, territorial, and insular area governments and those responsible for thetemporary care of children, such as educational, child care, medical, juvenile justice, andrecreational facilities, in enhancing the reunification elements of existent emergencypreparedness plans and/or conducting new all-hazards reunification planning.Any project of this scope entails the participation, assistance, and cooperation of manyindividuals. Whole community stakeholders from across the country were engaged in andsupported the development of this document, including local, state, and Federal partners,nongovernmental organizations, emergency managers, pediatric and disability experts, theprivate sector, and other applicable stakeholders. A warm thank you goes out to them for theirtime, efforts, and pivotal support.Without the participation, commitment, and efforts of those who were willing to share theirrespective expertise and experience in a way that was most useful to stakeholders and personnelfrom a variety of disciplines, Post-Disaster Reunification of Children: A Nationwide Approachwould not have been possible. An enormous amount of gratitude is extended to the States ofArizona, Louisiana, Missouri, New York, and Nevada; the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico; theU.S. Department of Education, and the U.S. Department of Justice, whose efforts wereinstrumental in bringing this initiative from concept to fruition.i

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Post-Disaster Reunification of Children: A Nationwide ApproachTable of ContentsIntroduction . 1Background .2Purpose, Applicability, and Scope. 5Roles . 9Local Level .9State Level.13National Level.17Nongovernmental and Private Sector Organizations .20Tribes .23Territories/Insular Areas .24Authorities . 25Planning Considerations . 31Concept of Operations Guidance . 33Minor Separated from Parent or Legal Guardian .33Child Reported Missing by Parent or Legal Guardian .41Unaccompanied Minor Identified as Deceased .42Supplemental Checklist . 43Preparedness .43Evacuation Support .44Shelter Operations .44Reunification Mechanisms .45Public Information and Outreach .45iii

Post-Disaster Reunification of Children: A Nationwide ApproachConclusion. 47Annex A: List of State Clearinghouses . A-1Annex B: Resource Directory . B-1Annex C: Family Emergency Plan Template . C-1Annex D: Abbreviations. D-1Annex E: Definitions . E-1iv

Post-Disaster Reunification of Children: A Nationwide ApproachIntroductionAmid the chaos of a natural, technological, or human-caused disaster, there is an increasedpossibility for children to become separated from their parents or legal guardians. This separationcould occur during the evacuation or sheltering process, or because children who are located in achild care, educational, medical, juvenile justice, recreational, or other facility may be unable toreconnect with their parents or legal guardians.Following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005, the National Center for Missing and ExploitedChildren’s (NCMEC’s) 1 hotline for those events received over 34,000 calls. 2 Children compriseapproximately 25 percent of the Nation’s population. On any given weekday, an estimated 67million of them are in schools and child care, and may be particularly vulnerable because theyare away from their families. Studies have shown that 63 percent of parents would disregard anevacuation order and go directly to their child’s school in an attempt to collect their children,even if they have received instructions to do the opposite. When parents are familiar with theemergency plans of their children’s temporary care providers, including the reunificationcomponents, they are more likely to follow evacuation and shelter-in-place orders, makingeveryone safer. 3Reunifying unaccompanied minors and separated or missing children with their parents or legalguardians in the aftermath of a disaster is a priority. 4 Accomplishing this goal requires theefficient, coordinated use of resources and efforts from across the whole community at the local,state, regional, and national levels. 5 By understanding approaches to reunification from acrossthe whole community, jurisdictions will be able to further develop and enhance the reunificationelements of their emergency preparedness plans.Outreach and collaboration with a broad stakeholder group has shown that communities arelooking for more information on available resources and promising practices to help them furtherdevelop the way their emergency preparedness plans address reunification.This document is designed to support those efforts. It was created to support overall reunificationprocesses and procedures by establishing a fundamental baseline, assisting in identifying theroles of lead and supporting agencies and organizations, and serving as a tool to enhancereunification elements of existent emergency preparedness plans and/or help guide thedevelopment of new all-hazards reunification plan elements and procedures. This documentshould assist in the development of reunification planning elements that are inclusive,considering those children who may be unable to verbalize who they are and/or relay any other1Federal law authorizes NCMEC to provide free services to families as the Nation’s clearinghouse for missing andsexually exploited children. Many of NCMEC’s authorized services are listed in 42 U.S.C. § 5773.2Sarita Chung and Michael Shannon, “Reuniting Children with Their Families During Disasters: A Proposed Planfor Greater Success,” American Journal of Disaster Medicine, 2007.3Irwin Redlener, Roy Grant, David Abramson, and Dennis Johnson, “Why Parents May Not Heed EvacuationOrders and What Emergency Planners, Families and Schools Need to Know,” ite paper 9 08.pdf4A separated child is a child who is separated from both parents or from his/her previous legal or customary primarycaregiver, but not necessarily from other relatives, while an unaccompanied child is a child who has been separatedfrom both parents and other relatives and is not being cared for by an adult who, by law or custom, is responsible fordoing so. See Annex E: Definitions for additional detail.5For the purposes of this document, “local and state” includes tribal, territorial, and insular area governments.1

Post-Disaster Reunification of Children: A Nationwide Approachessential information, and should also recognize the needs of children with disabilities and otheraccess and functional needs, including hearing and visual impairments. This document focusessolely on the reunification of children separated from their parents or legal guardians following adisaster. Planned next steps include developing other materials that comprehensively address thereunification of all disaster survivors.Overall, this document, along with other national preparedness doctrine (e.g., the NationalResponse Framework [NRF], and National Disaster Recovery Framework), provides another toolfor achieving our National Preparedness Goal of a more secure and resilient Nation to prevent,protect against, mitigate, respond to, and recover from the threats and hazards that pose thegreatest risk. 6For the purposes of this document, reunification is defined as the process of assistingdisplaced disaster survivors, including children, in voluntarily reestablishing contact withfamily and friends after a period of separation. Throughout the document, web links areprovided for reference and further information. All referenced web sites are active as of May2012.B a c kg ro u n dIn October 2006, the President signed into law the Post-Katrina Emergency Management ReformAct of 2006 (PKEMRA), 7 modifying the organizational structure, authorities, andresponsibilities of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). PKEMRA and theStafford Act 8 mandated that the National Emergency Child Locator Center (NECLC) beestablished within the NCMEC and that procedures be put in place to facilitate the identificationand reunification of displaced children with their families. NCMEC, established in 1984 as aprivate, nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization, serves as the Nation’s resource center on the issues ofmissing and sexually exploited children and provides services nationwide for law enforcement,families, and professionals in the protection of abducted, endangered, and sexually exploitedchildren. 9Pursuant to the Kids in Disaster Well-being, Safety, and Health Act of 2007, 10 the NationalCommission on Children and Disasters (Commission) was established in December 2007 by thePresident and Congress. The Commission was charged with conducting an independent andcomprehensive study to identify gaps in the Nation’s disaster planning, preparedness, response,and recovery for children, and to submit a report providing recommendations for closing thosegaps. The Commission delivered an interim report to the President and Congress in October2009, and then a final report in October 2010. 11 In August 2009, FEMA, in collaboration withmany other Federal partners and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), began to work closelywith the Commission to address their recommendations, where applicable, and ensure that the6Department of Homeland Security, National Preparedness Goal, September . L. No. 109-2958Section 689(b) of the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Assistance Act, Pub. L. No. 93-288, as amended.9NCMEC Web site. http://www.missingkids.com.10Pub. L. No. 110-16111National Commission on Children and Disasters, 2010 Report to the President and Congress, October x.html.2

Post-Disaster Reunification of Children: A Nationwide Approachneeds of children were considered and integrated into overall disaster planning, preparedness,response, and recovery efforts initiated at the Federal level.Included in the Commission’s report was a recommendation that efforts be made to strengthenthe mechanisms for collecting data, expanding information sharing capabilities, and creating acentral database where information pertaining to unaccompanied minors could be stored. Thisrecommendation prompted the development of the Unaccompanied Minors Registry (UMR)which supports the ability to collect, store, report, and act on information related to childrenmissing or lost as a result of a disaster. This newly created tool is administered by the NCMECduring disasters to gather and share information with, and provide technical assistance to, locallaw enforcement and assist in the reunification of displaced children with their parents or legalguardians. 12 Additionally, data within the tool can, through proper channels, be used by local andstate emergency managers, as well as other reunification stakeholders to assist with reunificationefforts, planning, and strategies. The UMR remains active at all times, even when

Post-Disaster Reunification of Children: A Nationwide Approach needs of children were considered and integrated into overall disaster planning, preparedness, response, and recovery efforts initiated at the Federal level. Included in the Commission’s report was a recommendation that efforts be made to strengthen