The Children in Disasters group aims to provide developmentally appropriate toys and other resources to evacuation shelters, so children can receive proper care and their parents can find some stress relief in times of disaster.
The group has been meeting for several months and is beginning to receive donations of supplies and money. In addition to more toys and supplies, they are hoping to find a storage location and looking for people with expertise in young children and child development to volunteer to be trained to work in disaster centers.
They are the first in the state to try to implement the recommendations from the National Commission on Children and Disasters, a report to the president and Congress issued in October. The report was commissioned shortly after Hurricane Katrina displaced more than 160,000 children, according to the National Center for Disaster Preparedness.
In response to the report, the federal Department of Homeland Security is compiling a document, "Preparing Child Care Programs for Emergencies," which will act as a blueprint for child care professionals.
"We'll be the guinea pigs for this document," said Betty Vaudt, project manager for Upper Cumberland Child Care Resource and Referral, which is housed at Tennessee Tech University. "Child care providers are professionals who want to do all they can to keep the children in their care safe. This document is a tool to help them do just that."
The group, in conjunction with the American Red Cross, the Upper Cumberland Regional Health Office and Putnam County Emergency Management Services will hold a disaster preparedness training session for child care and educational professionals from 7:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. June 11. For more information or to register, call Vaudt at 372-6402.
Children in Disasters is also working on creating protocols with the Red Cross for how and when to call for trained child development volunteers to report to shelters and how many children should be present before kits of toys and other supplies, including baby formula, large play pens and diapers, are distributed.