Public Health Emergency Preparedness
This resource was part of AHRQ's Public Health Emergency Preparedness program, which was discontinued on June 30, 2011, in a realignment of Federal efforts.
Now this resource is supported by the Administration for Children and Families (ACF).
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8. Child Welfare and Juvenile Justice
|Recommendation 8.1: Ensure that State and local child welfare agencies adequately prepare for disasters.
- Congress should request a national assessment of child welfare disaster planning to determine if significant advances have been made since passage of the Child and Family Services Improvement Act of 2006 (CFSIA).
- HHS should develop detailed disaster planning criteria by regulation or other formal policy guidance to supplement the basic procedures mandated in CFSIA.
- Within each ACF regional office, child welfare staff and the region's emergency management specialist should collaboratively review and evaluate the State child welfare disaster plans required by CFSIA and assist States in developing comprehensive plans and meeting their statutory obligations.
- DHS/FEMA and HHS should provide funding, guidance, and technical assistance to child welfare agencies and encourage collaboration with emergency management, courts, and other key stakeholders.
Hurricanes Katrina and Rita severely disrupted child welfare services, including forcing the evacuation of children in Louisiana's foster care system to 19 different States.305 The Government Accountability Office (GAO) subsequently conducted a survey of national foster care disaster planning to evaluate State planning capacity, and found that only three States had comprehensive child welfare plans that addressed all nine components of disaster planning identified by the GAO.306 Twenty States and the District of Columbia indicated that they had written child welfare disaster plans, but the quality of these plans varied widely, including the extent to which the plans include identification of dispersed children. Two months later, Congress passed the Child and Family Services Improvement Act (CFSIA),307 which included certain basic minimum disaster planning requirements for State child welfare agencies and required States to submit plans to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Administration for Children and Families (ACF) by September 28, 2007. The law required State child welfare agencies to have procedures in place to respond to a disaster, "in accordance with criteria established by the [HHS] Secretary which should include how a State would:
- Identify, locate, and continue availability of services for children under State care or supervision who are displaced or adversely affected by a disaster.
- Respond to new child welfare cases in areas adversely affected by a disaster and provide services.
- Remain in communication with caseworkers and other essential child welfare personnel who are displaced because of a disaster.
- Preserve essential program records.
- Coordinate services and share information with other States."308
Additional measures may be required to ensure that child welfare agencies are adequately prepared for disasters, as many States still have not engaged in comprehensive planning efforts. Although the Children's Bureau (CB) within ACF published an updated guidance document in 2007, detailed planning criteria to supplement the basic broad areas enumerated in the Act have not been issued in regulation by the HHS Secretary. A 2008 review of State child welfare plans by the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ) found that State plans often contained only general statements addressing the five broad areas of planning required by the CFSIA. The plans reviewed also generally did not include directives concerning how information would be shared with the courts that make vital decisions affecting the lives of children and families in the child welfare system.309
The Commission recommends that Congress request a national assessment of child welfare disaster planning to determine if significant advances have been made since passage of the CFSIA. CB should conduct this assessment, or as an alternative, Congress may direct the GAO to follow up on its 2006 report.310
Also, the Commission recommends that Congress require ACF and CB to develop a plan to ensure that all States prepare for disasters in a manner that is consistent with the intent of Congress as expressed in CFSIA. First, CB should develop detailed disaster planning criteria in a regulation or other formal policy guidance to supplement the basic procedures mandated in CFSIA.311 This would establish clear standards to help guide States' planning efforts and enable HHS to improve enforcement of the law by conducting a more exacting review to determine whether States are meeting their statutory obligations.
The Commission also recommends that the emergency management specialist in each ACF regional office participate in reviewing and evaluating the State child welfare disaster plans required by CFSIA, and in assisting States in developing comprehensive plans and meeting their statutory obligations. HHS, in its response to the Commission's request for information on progress in implementing the Commission's Interim Report recommendations, reported that ACF regional office liaisons review these plans and can offer support to States in developing revisions or, if necessary, refer them to the Children's Bureau Training and Technical Assistance Network. It is important that individuals with emergency management and child welfare expertise participate in the review of State plans and provide technical assistance to States as needed.
Finally, State and local child welfare agencies should be encouraged by CB, in collaboration with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), to prepare in ways beyond the minimal requirements enumerated in CFSIA, by:
- Conducting regular staff training and exercises of the plan.
- Coordinating with emergency management in formulating child welfare plans, and in integrating child welfare planning and exercises with other local and State planning and exercises.
- Collaborating with courts and other key stakeholders within the child welfare arena in planning and exercises.
- Developing a plan to provide additional services to address the emotional impact of disasters on children in the child welfare system.
- Requiring emergency planning for foster families, kinship care providers, and residential and group care facilities.
- Implementing the State plan at the local levels and integrating local plans into the State plan.
To encourage such State and local child welfare disaster planning efforts, in Chapter 1 of this report the Commission recommends that DHS/FEMA and ACF form a formal interagency partnership to pool resources to make funding, technical assistance, and other support available. Such resources should be used to support comprehensive and innovative preparedness initiatives; develop best practices; and facilitate collaborative planning, training, and exercises at the State and local level between child welfare and emergency management officials.
|Recommendation 8.2: Ensure that State and local juvenile justice agencies and all residential treatment, correctional, and detention facilities that house children adequately prepare for disasters.
- Congress should require State and local juvenile justice agencies and all residential treatment, correctional, and detention facilities that house children to have comprehensive disaster plans in place.
- DHS/FEMA and DOJ should support disaster planning for State and local juvenile justice agencies and residential treatment, correctional, and detention facilities that house children, by providing funding, technical assistance, and training.
In 2007, more than 1.6 million delinquency cases were processed nationwide resulting in 149,000 youth being placed out of their home.312 In August 2005, prior to the arrival of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, approximately 16,000 children were under the care or supervision of the juvenile justice systems in the impacted Gulf Coast States.313 The experiences of some of these children demonstrate the importance of effectively implementing coordinated system-wide juvenile justice disaster plans.314-315 For example, while State-run juvenile facilities in New Orleans safely evacuated youth to Baton Rouge in advance of Hurricane Katrina, the last-minute evacuation of a city-run juvenile facility to the predominately adult-populated Orleans Parish Prison left some children trapped for days without food, water, or medical care.316316
A 2006 report funded by the Department of Justice (DOJ) Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Protection (OJJDP) emphasized the importance of multi-agency collaborations in disaster planning, including involving Federal, State, and local agencies and community-based organizations.317 The report noted that detention and correctional facilities that had undertaken these efforts were better positioned following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita to make the difficult decisions that affected the safety of youth under their care.318
The Commission recommends that all State and local juvenile justice agencies and facilities-including all residential treatment, correctional, and detention facilities that house children, as well as private facilities that manage youth treatment programs-have comprehensive disaster plans in place. Although a baseline level of disaster planning is required for State child welfare agencies, Federal law does not require juvenile justice systems to develop and implement disaster plans. While a Federal requirement is advisable, the Commission is currently working with OJJDP on incentives for action.
The overarching goal of juvenile justice disaster planning must be to protect the physical safety and emotional well-being of children in the State's care before, during, and after a disaster. Critical services must be maintained (e.g., education, health, mental health, substance abuse, probation, and case processing) for all children in the system, whether in care or under supervision. Plans should be coordinated with other jurisdictions and entities within the juvenile system, including courts and probation services, and with key external stakeholders such as emergency management officials and community-based organizations. State juvenile justice agencies should oversee and coordinate system-wide disaster planning and certify that all local agencies and facilities that house juveniles within the State adequately prepare for disasters.
To help inform the development of juvenile justice disaster planning, the Commission recommended in its Interim Report that OJJDP conduct an assessment of disaster preparedness among State and local juvenile justice systems.319 OJJDP subsequently requested disaster plans from the State agencies that receive its formula grant funds. Fifteen grantees responded and OJJDP found that the submitted plans were predominantly intended for basic continuity of operations, rather than comprehensive disaster preparedness, response and recovery.320
The Commission also recommended in its Interim Report that OJJDP form a working group with the mission of improving juvenile justice disaster preparedness nationwide.321 OJJDP established the Justice Working Group on Children and Disasters, whose initial goal is to create a document with guiding principles to assist juvenile justice facilities in developing disaster plans.322
The Commission supports these initial steps, but believes that substantially more support—beyond the development and dissemination of a guidance document for facilities—is needed to adequately assist State and local agencies and facilities in preparing for disasters. Specifically, the Commission recommends OJJDP lead an effort to:
- Identify common gaps and shortcomings, as well as best practices, in State juvenile justice disaster planning.
- Develop a technical assistance and training program—that covers the full spectrum of disaster planning and management, including basic disaster preparedness and disaster mental health training for staff at juvenile justice facilities-and make it available to States.
- Support State and local juvenile justice systems in developing or updating disaster plans in coordination with State emergency management and key stakeholders including juvenile courts, residential treatment facilities, and correctional and
detention facilities that house juveniles via court-ordered placements and social services agencies.
To help accomplish these objectives, OJJDP should consider creating a demonstration program that awards disaster planning grants to States through a competitive process. This approach could support and highlight successful planning models in specific States, which would in turn facilitate the development of best practices, and provide models to assist other States in improving their disaster plans.
In recognition of OJJDP's limited resources and disaster management expertise, the Commission, in Chapter 1 of this report, recommends that DHS/FEMA and DOJ form a formal interagency partnership. This partnership would pool resources to make funding, technical assistance, and other support available to enhance the disaster preparedness, response, and recovery efforts of State and local juvenile justice systems and facilities. This collaboration would help OJJDP accomplish the objectives outlined above and promote collaborative planning, training, and exercises at the State and local level.
Ultimately, the Commission recommends that Congress enact a requirement for comprehensive disaster planning among juvenile justice facilities and agencies throughout the Nation. To the extent practicable, legislation would incorporate the guiding principles for effective disaster planning developed by the Justice Working Group on Children and Disasters. As part of this requirement, Congress should appropriate adequate funding to support Federal and non-Federal planning and other preparedness activities.
|Recommendation 8.3: HHS and DOJ should ensure that juvenile, dependency, and other courts hearing matters involving children adequately prepare for disasters.
- HHS should include disaster preparedness as a component of the Court Improvement Program for dependency courts.
- DOJ should include disaster preparedness as a component of the proposed National Juvenile Delinquency Court Improvement Program.
- DOJ and the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges should incorporate disaster preparedness into the Model Courts program.
Hurricanes Katrina and Rita demonstrated that courts with primary responsibility for cases involving children and youth need comprehensive disaster plans.323-324 In some areas of the Gulf, critical decisions involving the release, confinement, or movement of youth could not be made because judges could not be contacted, and backup plans were not in place.325 Decision making was further disrupted as some courts lost all their records, including backup records that were kept on-site.326 Courts, child welfare and juvenile justice professionals, and advocates lacked a systematic means to share information or coordinate essential activities. Courts and agencies struggled to locate children and foster and biological families, provide critical services and supports, and ensure appropriate oversight of cases. More recently, the Commission learned during its field visit to Iowa that during Iowa's 2008 floods and tornadoes, the Juvenile Court in Cedar Rapids lost all of its court records, necessitating a lengthy and arduous attempt at reconstructing the files from multiple sources.327
The Commission recommends that juvenile, dependency, and other courts hearing matters involving children must develop comprehensive plans that facilitate communication, coordination, and oversight of dependency and delinquency cases in times of disaster. In developing these plans, courts should collaborate with child welfare agencies, juvenile justice agencies and facilities, social workers, attorneys and other child advocates, volunteers, emergency management officials, and other community and professional stakeholders. In addition, since courts hearing cases involving children and youth are part of a larger court system, it is critical that planning efforts also be coordinated with the broader court system. Once the plans are developed, the courts should conduct regular disaster exercises involving these stakeholders.
Toward the goal of ensuring that juvenile and dependency courts have comprehensive disaster plans, the Commission recommends that CB clarify that funds from their Court Improvement Program (CIP) can be used by dependency courts and child welfare agencies to engage in collaborative disaster planning activities. The funds could improve the handling of cases and care for children who are in or may enter the child welfare system in times of disaster. All States receive CIP funding to conduct a variety of activities that promote system improvements within dependency courts and child welfare systems. These activities include creating and enhancing formal relationships between the courts and child welfare agencies. Responding to an appeal from the Commission to focus greater attention on disaster planning and collaborations among dependency courts and child welfare systems, CB indicated to its grantees that collaboration between dependency courts and child welfare systems in disaster planning constitutes the "meaningful and ongoing collaboration" that the CIP requires.328 However, more formal clarification, such as an addition to the program instruction should be issued to grantees.
The Fiscal Year 2011 budget request for OJJDP includes funding for a proposed National Juvenile Delinquency Court Improvement Program. If the program is approved by Congress, OJJDP should similarly include in the program instruction that collaborative disaster planning activities undertaken by delinquency courts and juvenile justice agencies and facilities also constitute eligible uses of program funds. In addition, OJJDP and CB should explore other possible ways to improve disaster preparedness in juvenile delinquency and dependency courts, and encourage collaborative disaster planning between courts and
juvenile justice and child welfare agencies.
Finally, the Commission recommends that disaster preparedness be incorporated into the NCJFCJ's Model Courts Program, an OJJDP-funded program that seeks to improve outcomes for abused and neglected children and their families by funding innovative court programs. The Commission believes that through the Model Courts program, OJJDP and NCJFCJ can lead the way in disaster preparedness for courts by raising awareness and developing best practices for other courts around the Nation to emulate.
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