One of the most serious and challenging situations resulting in the aftermath of a disaster is the potential of children becoming separated from their parents, caregivers or guardians. The most unfortunate example of this occurred after Hurricane Katrina with over 5,000 children reported displaced. It took over six months to successfully reunite them with their families. While New York has not experienced anything of this magnitude, we are no stranger to natural or man-made events and recognize all too well the importance of having plans in place.
Understanding that reunifying children separated or missing from families after of a disaster requires a coordinated use of resources across the whole community; partners at all levels of government and non-government organizations collaborated to develop a holistic guidance document entitled Post-Disaster Reunification of Children: A Nationwide Approach.
OCFS was part of the New York State core planning team working along with Arizona, Louisiana, Missouri and Nevada, the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Justice, who worked with FEMA, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) and the Red Cross to develop this national approach.
This framework is designed to:
- Assist local and state governments in determining processes, communication lines, and the identification of roles and responsibilities necessary to facilitate the expeditious reunification of youth separated as a result of disaster
- Encourage stakeholders and community leaders to develop and build upon existent relationships prior to a disaster
- Establish an understanding of how all responsible parties (leading and supporting) can work together to support each other’s missions
- Identify tools and resources that could assist localities and states in disaster-related reunification efforts (i.e., tracking & reunification systems)
Also in combination with this undertaking, is the Unaccompanied Minors Registry (UMR), launched by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), which is our nation’s first national repository created to support the ability to collect, store, report, and act on information related to children separated as a result of disaster. The UMR is available during all disasters and can be accessed on the following link: http://umr.missingkids.com.