While schools in East Baton Rouge Parish have reopened, six schools were destroyed, forcing children to be relocated to other schools. In nearby Livingston Parish, over a dozen schools were damaged, creating a disruption in children’s education. In both parishes, numerous child care providers suffered damage and are unable to provide this critical service to young children and working families. Save the Children staff working in the River Center shelter and in local communities report that there is a great need to help children who were traumatized by the disaster overcome feelings of stress, anxiety, fear, frustration and uncertainty.
We mobilized an immediate response to the urgent needs of children and families who arrived in emergency shelters, with a special focus on addressing children’s protection needs and providing them with access to psychosocial support to help alleviate their great stress and uncertainty around the crisis.
We have also been working with local and state education and child care officials to assess the damage to schools and child care providers and initiate activities to help restore children’s access to these services. We have coordinated with the mayor’s office in Baton Rouge, the governor’s office, with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Red Cross, and the national Child Care Aware of America agency to ensure that children’s needs are prioritized.
Here are highlights of our recent responses:
Our Child-friendly Space at the River Center shelter provided girls and boys with access to structured play and other activities, as well as psychosocial support, under the direction of trained facilitators.
To help address children’s mental health and behavioral support needs, we worked with Louisiana Spirit (a partner from our response after Hurricane Katrina) to provide crisis counselors at our Child-friendly Space.
At the request of education officials, we opened an early childhood development program at the shelter for children ages 0-3.
We provided backpacks filled with school supplies to 90 children at the shelter who were attending school.
We worked with parents at the shelter to determine why other children are not attending school and conducted follow ups with the school district. We requested that several children with disabilities be provided with transportation to attend school.
In Jefferson Davis Parish, we helped our Head Start programs reopen by assisting with repairs and maintenance. These two centers serve almost 140 children.
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