Disaster & Emergency Preparedness & Response

Research, Reports & Briefs

  • Federal Action Needed to Ensure States Have Plans to Safeguard Children in the Child Welfare System Displaced by Disasters
    The Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued this report on the readiness of state child welfare systems when disasters strike.  The report concluded that only 20 states and the District of Columbia had written child welfare disaster plans, but those plans varied among the states.  GAO recommended that Congress pass legislation requiring states to develop and submit disaster plans, and that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services provide guidance to states in the planning of disaster relief as it relates to child welfare issues.  (July 2006)
  • Lessons Learned for Protecting and Educating Children after the Gulf Coast Hurricanes
    The General Accounting Office (GAO) prepared this preliminary information to learn more about (1) the number of missing children and the challenges and lessons learned in locating them after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita; (2) the number of foster and other children receiving child welfare services in Louisiana, in particular, who were affected by the storm, and the challenges and lessons learned in locating and serving them; and (3) the number of schoolchildren displaced by the storm, the damage to their schools, and the challenges and lessons learned for educating children. (May 2006)
  • Managing in Emergencies: Making Use of New Funds and Funding Flexibility for Human Services
    This brief from the Finance Project, drawing on responses to Katrina and other disasters such as 9/11, explores strategies that policymakers and program leaders can use to increase the availability of funds and provide greater flexibility in the use of funds to meet human service-related needs in emergency situations. Some of these strategies have already been implemented, while others reflect proposals. (December 2005)
  • Intercountry adoption in emergencies: the tsunami orphans
    This policy brief from the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute examines the role of intercountry adoption in situations such as the one caused by the massive tsunami that struck Southeast Asia and the eastern coast of Africa on Dec. 26, 2004 -- that is, during natural disasters, armed conflicts, and other complex human emergencies. By outlining some of the unique threats posed to children during emergencies, and examining existing international conventions and the legal framework for intercountry adoption, this brief articulates best practices that incorporate both immediate and long-term needs of children left without parental care -- including protection, family reunification, community and family solutions, permanency, and respect for culture. (2005)

Agency Preparedness

  • Emergency Planning Guide for Child-Serving Organizations
    This guide was developed by the Promising Practices Network (PPN) , a project operated by the RAND Corporation and  launched by a partnership between The Colorado Foundation for Families and Children, The Family and Community Trust (Missouri), Georgia Family Connection Partnership, and The Foundation Consortium for California's Children & Youth.  Tailored specifically toward organizations providing direct social services to children and families, this tool helps workers prepare for emergency situations by walking them through the seven steps for planning. (October 2011)
  • Coping With Disasters and Strengthening Systems: A Framework for Child Welfare Agencies
    This publication from the National Child Welfare Resource Center for Organizational Improvement (NRCOI), a service of the Children’s Bureau and member of the T/TA Network, provides managers with a framework covering steps that agencies should take before, during, and after a disaster, while highlighting how these steps can improve children and family- serving systems.  Each of the three sections concludes with a checklist providing a quick overview of key points discussed in the text. (February 2007) 
  • Coping with Disasters: Tips for Child Welfare Agencies
    This issue of Child Welfare Matters, the newsletter of the National Child Welfare Resource Center on Organizational Improvement (NRCOI), is dedicated to helping agencies prepare for and respond to natural disasters and other crises. In addition to providing tips for coping with disasters and a perspective from the field, this issue also emphasizes the importance of supporting staff and communicating with broader emergency management. (Spring 2006) 
  • Coping with Disaster: A Guide for Child Welfare Agencies
    Child welfare agencies should have a disaster plan that specifies emergency procedures and ensures that the agency continues to function during a man-made or natural disaster.  This guide from the Children’s Bureau describes the necessity of having a disaster plan and identifies the elements of an effective child welfare agency plan.  Topics addressed include how to use agency staff and community resources, ways to locate foster families, alternative funding sources, interagency collaboration, and procedures for receiving disaster relief funds.  Treating child welfare staff as disaster victims, training foster parents, and plan implementation and maintenance are also discussed. (January 1995)
  • Privacy Decision-Making Tool for Emergency Preparedness
    Child welfare agencies are actively exploring multiple ways to engage with families to keep their children safe. Solution focused practice is a full family-centered model that has been used successfully in the mental health field and more recently in child welfare. The National Child Welfare Resource Center on Organizational Improvement (NRCOI) has conducted three teleconferences on solution-focused practice. During these three calls, presenters discussed the philosophy, principles and research that underpin solution focused practice as well as how implementing this approach in child welfare has generated positive outcomes for children, families and workers. The audio files, as well as handouts from the calls, are available on their website.
  • Ready for Anything: A Disaster Planning Manual for Runaway and Homeless Youth Programs
    By walking you through the process of preparing for disasters before they occur, this manual by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will help ensure that you have an effective response ready. Whether you operate an emergency shelter offering short-term residencies or a transitional living program serving youth who stay for more than a year, this manual will help you take steps to manage a disaster by focusing on three key areas – prevention and preparedness, response, and recovery. 

Information on Trauma and Stress

*Visit our Trauma Informed Child Welfare hot topic page for additional information and resources

  • Traumatic Stress/Child Welfare
    This issue of Focal Point, produced by the Research and Training Center (RTC) on Family Support and Children's Mental Health at Portland State University, is dedicated to child traumatic stress, particularly as experienced by children involved in the child welfare system.  In this issue, the causes and effects of traumatic stress, evidence-based treatments, and prevention strategies are discussed. (Winter 2007)
  • Age-Related Reactions to a Traumatic Event
    Developed by the National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN), this publication provides parents with information on recognizing and understanding children’s reactions to traumatic events at different ages and levels of development.  The publication also presents suggestions for how parents can support children following exposure to traumatic events.
  • Children, Families and Workers: Facing Trauma in Child Welfare
    Best Practice/Next Practice was the biannual publication of the former National Child Welfare Resource Center for Family-Centered Practice.  This issue discusses the traumatic effects of 9/11 and how these events affected child welfare populations, and presents strategies to improve practice with families affected by trauma.  (Winter 2002)
  • Culturally Relevant Materials for Helping Professionals
    The National Institute for Trauma and Loss in Children (TLC) provides information for professionals helping children and families cope with traumatic events, including culturally relevant articles on New Orleans, Louisiana, Cajun and Creole cultures.


  • American Psychological Association- Disasters & Terrorism
    The American Psychological Association (APA) website contains a Psychology Help Center that highlights various subject areas, including disasters and terrorism. Resources are provided to assist individuals in understanding the effects of various types of traumatic stress and tips for coping and managing distress are provided.
  • The National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN) 
    NCTSN, funded by the Center for Mental Health Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, US Department of Health and Human Service, is a unique collaboration of academic and community-based service centers.  The Network serves as a national resource for developing and disseminating evidence-based interventions, trauma-informed services, and public and professional education.  A section of the NCTSN website is dedicated to providing information and resources on natural disasters, including earthquakes, epidemics, fires, floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, and tsunamis.
  •  Parents Trauma Resource Center
    This web-based tool from The National Institute for Trauma and Loss in Children (TLC) is aimed for use by parents and caregivers.  Detailed information on grief and trauma is presented and available by specific concerns or age group.  Available in English, Spanish, and Arabic.

Resources for Children and Families

  • Simple Activities for Children and Adolescents
    In response to Hurricane Sandy, the National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN) has created these activity sheets, which offer ideas to parents and caregivers on ways to keep children and adolescents entertained while waiting out a power outage or help youth from getting bored if stuck inside. These tips sheets provide ideas for games and activities youth can play without supplies, with limited supplies when they have light, or with limited supplies in the dark. (2012)

  • Be Informed- Hurricanes
    Provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), this resource provides users with information and resources on hurricanes, as well as what to do during, before, and after a hurricane.  (November 2012)
  • Coping with Disasters
    This resource from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) provides information on understanding disaster events, recognizing signs of and easing disaster-related stress, helping children cope with disasters, as well as children’s reactions to disaster by age. (June 2012)
  • Disaster Preparedness for Kids in the USA
    This resource from Save the Children allows users to use an interactive map to see which states have evacuation/relocation, family-child reunification, children with special needs, and K-12 multiples disaster plans in place to protect the most vulnerable children in emergency situations. (2012)
  • Caring for Kids after Trauma, Disaster and Death: A Guide for Parents and Professionals
    Developed by the New York University Child Study Center, this guide has been prepared for use with children and adolescents following a traumatic experience (please note, this guide not intended to substitute professional mental health help).  Organized into six sections, the guide examines issues including: 1) reactions to disaster and trauma,  2) guidelines for helping children affected by disasters and trauma, 3) resilience in children affected by trauma and disasters, 4) bereavement reactions and guidelines to helping children cope, 5) when and how to get help, and 6) practical guide for parents and professionals. (September 2006)
  • Can Do and the Storm: A Story About New Beginnings
    Written by Dr. Morton D. Sosland and Dr. Esther Deblinger, members of the National Child Traumatic Stress Network, this picture book intends to help children who have experienced traumatic events think about and share their own feelings, thoughts, and experiences.  The book is available to download for free. (2005)
  • Disaster Preparedness for Families of Children with Special Needs
    This publication from the Florida Institute for Family Involvement is dedicated to assisting families of children and youth with special health care needs prepare and plan for emergencies and disasters.  While this publication was developed for families in Florida, it includes detailed checklists and tips that are helpful for families everywhere.
  • Family Emergency Plan
    Ready.gov developed this family emergency plan template that can be completed and discussed prior to emergency situations, detailing how family members can get in contact with each other, where they will meet and what they will do in an emergency. 
  • Family Preparedness: Thinking Ahead
    This tool from The National Center for Child Traumatic Stress (NCCTS), Terrorism and Disaster Branch, assists families in preparing for disasters by providing steps on how to educate oneself and one’s family, creating family emergency and communication plans, making emergency supply kits, and keeping informed during and after an emergency.  This publication is also available in ArmenianKoreanRussianSpanish, and Vietnamese.
  • Parent Guidelines for Helping Children After a Hurricane
    This publication from the National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN) guides parents in preparing to help their children recover following a hurricane.  The guidelines educate parents on common child reactions to hurricanes and provide strategies to support and help children.  Additionally, suggestions are provided on what parents can do for themselves and their children to return to their normal routines.

Resources for Agencies and Staff

  • Post-Disaster Reunification of Children: A Nationwide Approach
    This resource developed by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, American Red Cross, and the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children provides a comprehensive overview of the coordination processes necessary to reunify children separated from their parents or legal guardians in the event of a large-scale disaster. Itreflects how the whole community (including nongovernmental organizations, faith-based and community organizations, disability and pediatric organizations, Federal and private sector partners, and civic action committees) can work together to achieve one wide ranging mission.  The publication was created to: 1) assist State and local governments in determining processes, communication lines, and the identification of roles and responsibilities necessary to facilitate the expeditious reunification of children separated as a result of disaster; (2) encourage stakeholders and community leaders to develop and build upon existing and pre-disaster relationships; (3) establish an understanding of how all parties (leading and supporting) can work together to support each other’s missions; and (4) identify tools and resources that could assist States and localities in disaster related reunification efforts. (November 2013)
  • Case Planning Desk Reference for Emergency Situations
    Developed by AdoptUSKids for the Louisiana Department of Social Services, this reference identifies specific questions that should be answered to guide decision-making in emergencies.  Organized by permanency goal, the Desk Reference is formatted as a set of check lists to facilitate ease of use.  While this tool was designed specifically for use in the aftermath of the hurricanes, it can be used by any worker seeking guidance in permanency decision-making regardless if the plan is reunification, adoption or anything in between. (December 2006)
  • Conference Calls for State Agencies
    The Children's Bureau sponsored a series of conference calls for child welfare directors, foster care managers, adoption managers, ICAMA managers and ICPC administrators.  The primary purpose of the calls was to share information which will be of assistance to Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama in supporting their foster and adoptive families which may have been displaced by Hurricane Katrina.  A second agenda item was to discuss the best avenues for identifying children who may have become disconnected from family and care takers.  Notes from the calls are posted here for reference. All notes are in Microsoft Word format.
  • ACF Information Memorandum: Title IV-E and Hurricane Katrina
    This Information Memorandum reminds States of flexibility in the title IV-E program that may help them serve vulnerable children and families who have been affected by Hurricane Katrina. It discusses children at risk for foster care placement, recruiting foster care providers, meeting children's needs in foster care maintenance payments, providing the match for Federal funds, case review requirements, judicial determinations, and Federal oversight. (September 2005)
  • Responding to a Crisis
    The School Mental Health Project (SMHP) at the University of California, Los Angeles provides an array of resources and materials for use in crisis prevention and response.

Fostering and Adopting Displaced Children

We, like many other child welfare organizations, received many requests from individuals interested in providing foster care or adopting children affected by Hurricane Katrina.  The NRCPFC responded to these questions with the following statement and directed individuals to the child welfare agency in their state:

"Children without parents due to natural disasters have always brought out the best in the American people.  The National Resource Center for Permanency and Family Connections (NRCPFC) has heard from many families willing to open their homes and hearts to children who are separated from or have lost their families due to Hurricane Katrina.  Foster care and adoption of children is regulated by state public child welfare agencies, which are responsible for ensuring the safety, permanency, and well-being of children in foster and adoptive homes.

It is expected that any unaccompanied children will be reunited with nuclear and extended family members as soon as possible.  Only if family is not available will foster care or adoption be pursued.  In times of crisis it is important to maintain connections, especially for children.  However, there is an ongoing need to provide homes for the more than half million children who must spend time in foster care every year, and the 118,000 children who currently are free for adoption and are waiting for permanent families.  To find out more about how you can help these American children, please visit one of these websites:

  • Child Welfare Information Gateway
    Choose "National Foster Care & Adoption Directory" in the left column, then search for toll-free adoption and foster care hotline numbers in your state.
  • AdoptUSKids
    If you are a family interested in learning more about the steps to adoption in your state, call toll free 888-200-4005 to be referred to an adoption resource specialist for your state.”

Those desiring to provide some immediate assistance to children and families should check with other resources listed on this page.

NRCPFC Teleconferences, Webinars & Webcasts

  • NRCPFC Webcast: Moving From Disaster to Renewal and Recovery: The Louisiana Child Welfare Experience
    NRCPFC Executive Director Gerald P. Mallon talked with Marketa Gautreau, Assistant Secretary, Office of Community Services, Louisiana Department of Social Services about the impact of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita on Louisiana's child welfare system.  Moving through natural disasters which affected the lives of thousands of children, youth, and families toward stabilization and recovery is a challenging process.  There are many lessons to be learned from this unprecedented event. (March 2007)

Power Point Presentations

  • Disaster Planning- Funding Highlights and Continued Need
    Following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005, NRCPFC joined our six partner National Resource Centers in a coordinated approach to technical assistance.  This Power Point presentation from T/TA Network Meeting in Alexandria, Virginia describes highlights of that effort as well as the continuing need. (October 12, 2007)


T/TA Network

  • Child Welfare Information Gateway- Disaster Preparedness & Response
    This section of the Child Welfare Information Gateway, a service of the Children’s Bureau, provide information and resources which may help States and jurisdictions in developing comprehensive disaster preparedness plans and responding to emergencies quickly and effectively to protect children and families.  Resources are organized by preparedness (before a disaster), response (the immediate aftermath) and recovery (the longer-term reconstruction/healing phase).
  • National Resource Center for Child Welfare Data & Technology (NRC-CWDT)- Disaster Planning
    The NRC-CWDT, a service of the Children’s Bureau and member of the Training and Technical Assistance (T/TA) Network, provides State and Tribal child welfare agencies and the courts with a range of technical assistance on data and system issues to improve outcomes for children and families.  This section of their website provides tools and resources to help child welfare agencies prepare for and respond to disasters.  


  • Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)
    The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), U.S. Department of Homeland Security, website presents a wide range of information and resources on the following areas: planning, preparing, and mitigating disasters; disaster survivor assistance; and response and recovery.  FEMA’s following campaigns (for adults and children) were designed to educate and empower Americans to prepare for and respond to emergencies:

Tools regarding individual assistance programs, including housing resources and community service programs are available along with other response and recovery resources.  Information on various natural disasters is also available.

  • National Institute of Mental Health: Coping with Traumatic Events
    This section of the National Institute for Mental Health (NIMH) site contains information, videos, publications, reports and other resources about coping with traumatic events.  NIMH is part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
  • USA.gov- Disasters and Emergencies
    This section of USA.gov, the U.S. government’s official web portal, provides the public with information and resources concerning natural disasters.

Additional Websites

  • National Center for Missing & Exploited Children
    The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) is a private, (501)(c)(3) nonprofit organization whose mission is to serve as the nation’s resource on the issues of missing and sexually exploited children.  This website may be useful in finding loved ones after a disaster.

2006 AdoptUsKids Summit

AdoptUsKids hosted a meeting August 3-4 in San Antonio, Texas. "Answering the Call: Extraordinary Services in Extraordinary Times - Recovery & Reform" focused on the child welfare response to the hurricanes that struck the Gulf Coast in 2005.  Presentation materials include:

  • Collaboration Counts: Answering the Call 
    John D. Damon, Chief Operating Officer, Mississippi Children's Home Services
    On May 9-10, 2006, Mississippi Children's Home Services in partnership with the Mississippi Department of Human Services, Division of Family and Children's Services, hosted the Gulf Coast Child Welfare Summit: Lighting the Way in Biloxi, Mississippi.  The purpose of the Summit was to bring together a cross section of public sector entities, advocacy groups, the court system, private child welfare service providers, foster parents, recreational providers, school systems, primary health care providers, and a group of national experts to assess the needs of the child welfare system following hurricane Katrina and develop an action plan to address these needs.
  • Rescue, Recovery and Rebuilding: Lessons Learned, Challenges and Opportunities
    Cindy Phillips, LCSW of the Louisiana Department of Social Services presents facts about Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, their impact on child welfare services, and important information about lessons learned and moving on.  Includes photographs that vividly remind us of both the large scope of these disasters and the individual human struggles to survive. (August 2, 2006)
  • Bridging Refugee Youth and Children's Services (BRYCS)
    Julianne Duncan, Ph.D., Associate Director, Children's Services and Lyn Morland, MSW, MA, Senior Program Officer, US Converence of Catholic Bishops Migration & Refugee Services describes demographics, challenges and promising practices in the field of refugee children's services, as well as the technical assistance available from BRYCS. (August 3, 2006)


Last updated 11/14/13