Monthly Archives: January 2016

Florida Rapid Response

We had a great Rapid Response planning meeting yesterday in Tampa, Florida! Leaders of CLDR and Children’s Disaster Services (CDS) flew in to meet with 7 Florida child life specialists. Some are pictured here including Erin Silber who has agreed to be the Tampa CDS Coordinator (


We also met with Red Cross staff to network and advocate for the needs of children after disasters.

Red Cross

We have exciting goals for the future in the Florida area and will be sharing more details with those who would like to be involved!

Sandy in Arnold, MO: Just a Single Day.

Just a Single Day.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to help people. I have found joy in offering a helping hand, small favor, even just a smile. I think that desire to be of assistance is what initially drew me to child life. There are so many things I love about this incredibly unique and diverse field, but for me, just knowing that I could do something to make a potentially stressful experience a little easier for a child and/or family is my motivation for going to work every day.

For those same reasons, I was drawn to disaster relief. For years I would watch coverage and read articles about the devastation caused by tsunamis, earth quakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, and fires. I would feel a pull to offer some kind of assistance. Not knowing what else to do, I donated what I could to the Red Cross or specific missions through church. I always felt like this wasn’t enough. I wanted to give of myself; I wanted to help.

I had heard of the Children’s Disaster Services through Church of the Brethren from a friend a couple years ago. She had urged me to look into their organization a little further, but it wasn’t until I learned of some child life specialists’ involvement with CDS that I really looked into the role that we, and eventually I, could play. I anxiously signed up and attended the CDS training offered at CLC National Conference in 2015 and loved every minute of it. I completed the “homework” portion of the training, received my badge in the mail and waited.

It wasn’t until this past week that I was able to be deployed to provide support after severe flooding in the St Louis area. It worked out that I was able to serve for just a single day, but in that single day I gained an awareness of disaster relief services that I never would have had earlier. I had the pleasure of volunteering with three ladies who shared amazing stories of previous deployments and experiences with the CDS. I enjoyed setting up our child care area and the troubleshooting that came with it. I was so excited to play with the kiddos who came to spend time with us. Personally, I feel like when I’m in the hospital it is sometimes difficult to allow myself to be fully present and just play with a child. I’m always wondering if I should be somewhere else; if I’m missing a procedure, preparation or debriefing regarding something stressful, etc. But on Saturday, I knew I was exactly where I needed to be.

I had the opportunity to spend time with two cousins, a 2- and 6-year-old, while their family sought support from different organizations. During our play with play-dough, one of the cousins stated, “There is river water in my room.” The second cousin added, “There was so much river water in my room that they had to tear it down.” I simply replied, “Thank you so much for sharing that with me. I’m glad you are both here playing with me. You’re safe here.”  My heart jumped as they shared this with me, I was so glad I was able to be there in this moment with them and provide the reassurance necessary.

After the cousins left for the day we had a couple more kids come in and out of the center, but none stayed long enough for what I considered to be enough time for therapeutic intervention/support. However, what I did note throughout the rest of the day, was how everyone in the room, through the tears and difficult conversations, would look over to us and smile. They would see the paintings and works of art that the children created, the kitchen set with dishes strewn about, the rice bucket, the books, and stuffed animals, and smile. It seemed like even the adults and families who did not have children with them looked to the child care center for some sort of reassurance, some sort of comfort and it hit me: what we were doing made a difference. Our presence, our support of children and the encouragement of play despite this incredibly stressful experience, in my opinion, helped everyone in that room in some small way.

As I drove back home to Kansas City, I couldn’t help but become emotional as I thought back on the day and all that I had seen. I felt great sadness and empathized with those who had experienced the devastation of loss in the wake of the floods.  But joy soon overcame that sadness as I realized that despite the hardships that so many now have to deal with, there were dozens of volunteers, kind people, who had given a Saturday to help those in need. I thought of the cousins I had played with and the faces of those who looked over to us and found some happiness.  I felt peace knowing that I might have made a difference in that one day, that maybe I helped.

-Sandy Ganey, Certified Child Life Specialist


Missouri Flood Relief: Lindsey in Pacific, MO

Just prior to my deployment, I was made aware that a fellow child life specialist that works with me at Women’s & Children’s Hospital was also going to be serving on my team.  This was so exciting!  I was ecstatic that we were both going to go and share in this journey together.  As we drove to St. Louis the night prior to our deployment we shared our excitement for this opportunity and utter ignorance to what we were about to walk into the next day.  Would there be a lot of children?  What type of grief/loss would they be experiencing?  Who would we be serving with?  In some ways these unknowns were familiar – in the healthcare setting we don’t often have all the answers either.  We were used to relying on our skill sets and experiences to guide us into new and unfamiliar situations.

Upon arriving to the Multi-Agency Resource Center (MARC) we navigated through the many tables set up with organizations looking for a sign that said “Children’s Disaster Services.”  It was so incredible to see the various organizations that came together to help families affected by the floods.  From the essentials (food, clothing, and shelter) to insurance claim information to organizations offering gift cards and donated items, it was so refreshing to see so much good going on in the midst of this disaster.  We made it to the back of the center where we were greeted by fellow CDS volunteers who immediately made us feel welcomed by stating their appreciation for our willingness to serve and excitement for some “young energy!”

This young girl came into the center timidly and wasn’t eager to play or interact. She went directly to the tent, which likely provided her with a space to feel safe while she assessed her new setting. She observed those playing by peering out and then retreating back. It didn’t take long for her curiosity to lure her out into the playful environment that allowed her to be a kid again!

After filling out some brief paperwork, our first task was to set-up our space.  This proved to be much more challenging than expected as we embarked on building a tent space for the children that would soon be arriving.  Let’ s just say Corinne and I were not experts, however, I think the space served the children’s purposes.

Throughout the first day we had about 13 kids visit the center.  Each one of them with unique personalities and their own way of coping with the flood.  However, they shared a  common denominator of joy and playfulness once engaged with the CDS volunteers and each other.  It was so refreshing to see the kids imaginations and stories come alive.  We also learned that most of the local schools were able to remain in session and therefore many children were able to attend school still.  This was so exciting as we know routine and peer interaction is so important for children, especially after any type of trauma.




On our second day, the MARC was relatively slow.  Although we longed for kids to play, we didn’t let the lack of kids stop us from playing ourselves!  We colored our space and shared our own life stories while getting to know one another.  I certainly knew after the first day what great people I was surrounded by, but I thoroughly enjoyed this opportunity to get to know my team better.  Most of them had served in other major disasters with CDS and they were so generous in sharing those experiences with us “newbies.”  This was so helpful in understanding the variety of experiences and services one might be fulfilling during a disaster deployment.  They told stories of rocking children to sleep due to their utter exhaustion…stories of children telling their stories and painting pictures to describe what they experienced during disasters and so on.  Each and every disaster is so different, not one response will be the same.  That is the reality of disaster services…you must be flexible and willing to serve in whatever ways needed.

Another advantage to this day was the ability to walk around the MARC and engage with other volunteers and organizations.  For years I have been working with Child Life Disaster Relief to learn about the needs of children and families during disasters and how child life professionals might fill those needs.  This was a perfect opportunity to not only learn more about other organizations fulfilling some of those needs, but also about disaster relief processes and procedures.  One of the most exciting things I learned was the initiatives through our Missouri State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) to help children and youth in disasters.  After brief conversations learning about them and sharing about us, I was invited to join their efforts and get more involved with the SEMA initiative.  I can’t wait to make this happen!  There are some very exciting things going on in Missouri and I’m hopeful they will become a great model in disaster services to children and families throughout the nation!

A huge thanks to my wonderful team!  Thank you for introducing me to you, your experiences, and disasters in general!  I can’t wait to serve again!


Missouri Flood Relief: Ready to go!

There is a saying in St. Louis that “if you don’t like the weather wait an hour, it will change.” This certainly came to fruition when just one day after taking my son to the park on a beautiful 50 degree day the biggest flood since 1993 hit the St. Louis area.

I live a few hours west of St. Louis, but was in town visiting family for Christmas celebrations Dec. 23rd-Jan 3rd.  While watching Christmas movies at my parents’ house word got out that the levee at Dardenne Creek failed. Homes less than a mile from where I sat were under water.  Interstates 70, 44, 55 began shutting down. My soon to be brother-in-law’s phone began buzzing with photos of his childhood friends’ homes standing feet from the water.

In the next several days, countless images of flood waters swallowing homes, schools, and churches were displayed on the evening news.  I felt helpless and eagerly talked with the CLDR team to discuss the need for deployment.  One of the biggest things I’ve learned since beginning this initiative to get child life specialists involved in disaster relief, is that it takes time to assess, coordinate, and deploy disaster relief services.  I’ve also learned how essential careful collaboration and coordination of services is in order to provide the most effective services to those greatest in need.  And so…I impatiently (I’ve never been known for my patience) waited for a deployment alert.

On Monday, January 4th, I received an e-mail from Children’s Disaster Services(CDS), stating there was a “possible” deployment to St. Louis for the flooding and asking what my availability might be in the next two weeks.  With the support of my husband, I began seeking child care options for the next week.  The very next day that “possible” turned into a “need” and I was notified that I would be deployed the following Monday and Tuesday, January 11-12th.  With a week to plan, I was able to finish my class preparations for the courses I would begin teaching the week after deployment.  Having the time to complete some things prior to leaving definitely helped me to be prepared and mentally present during my deployment.

This opportunity was also unique, as it was a localfrog-897418_1280 response, not national.  Only CDS volunteers within a certain proximity to St. Louis were being sought due to the assessed short-term need.  As a wife, mother, and full-time doctoral student the likelihood of me being able to do a 2-week national deployment was slim.   Therefore, this local 2-day deployment was just the perfect fit!

Stay tuned for future post(s) as I continue to reflect on my time being deployed!

Lindsey Murphy,
Certified Child Life Specialist