Experts are predicting that the 2010 hurricane season, which beings today, will be busier than usual. While communities across the coast gear up to prepare for what could be a rocky season, Members of Congress are taking action to ensure that our nation is ready to help children and families prepare for and deal with the aftermath of a disaster.

Children are particularly vulnerable during a time of crisis. Louisiana State University’s Department of Psychiatry screened 12,000 children in schools during the 2005-06 school years. Their research found that 18 percent of the students had a family member who was killed in Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, and 49 percent of them met the threshold for a mental health referral. Save the Children found that only seven states require licensed child care providers to have basic written emergency plans in place addressing evacuation, reunification and accommodating children with special needs.

Last week, United States Senator Mary L. Landrieu (D-LA), and Congresswoman Corrine Brown (D-FL), held a press conference to highlight National Hurricane Preparedness Week and urge Congress to pass the Child Safety, Care and Education Continuity Act, legislation that would address the unique needs of children before, during, and after a disaster.

The bill provides for child safety, care, and education continuity in the event of a presidentially declared disaster by:

  • Providing tuition reimbursements to elementary and secondary schools that take in displaced students.
  • Easing financial aid regulations on students attending Institutions of Higher Education that are unable to operate after a disaster.
  • Providing mental health counseling for pre-K students through Head Start Agencies.
  • Requiring that HHS and States work together to develop Disaster Guidance for Medicaid and Child Health Insurance Program (CHIP) providers to ensure that displaced children have access to medical care.
  • Increasing access to child care services for disaster-affected families through the Child Care and Development Block Grant program.
  • Requiring child care centers that receive federal funding through that program to develop emergency plans for evacuation, reunification, special needs, and temporary operating standards.