All posts by cldisasteradmin

Partnership with Camp Noah

Noah Boat

We are excited to announce a new partnership with Camp Noah! Camp Noah is a nationally recognized preparedness and resiliency day camp offered to elementary age children in communities impacted by a disaster or crisis. Camp Noah provides a safe and caring environment where children build resiliency skills within the familiarity of their own communities. They use a proven curriculum designed to help children process their disaster and/or trauma experience through creative activities and play. Camp Noah celebrates every child as special. In this safe and supportive setting, children are encouraged to face their fears, grieve their losses, identify and share their unique gifts and talents, and plan for an amazing future! (

Each Camp Noah is supported through Locally Trained Volunteers, Certified Camp Staff, and a Mental Health Professional. As part of our partnership, Camp Noah will be seeking our support to fill any of these roles:

Locally Trained Volunteer (open to students and CCLS): The primary role is to support the camp through helping with food, registration, set-up and take-down, etc. Online training is not required.

Certified Camp Staff (open to students and CCLS): The primary role is to enact the camp curriculum and lead and support campers. Online training is required (free to CCLS, reduced cost for CL students).

Mental Health Professional (CCLS only): The primary role of the mental health professional is to be a resource and support to any children or staff with specific mental health needs during the camp. In addition, should the need for additional or ongoing mental health support be assessed, the mental health professional will assist in providing contacts in the community for these ongoing services. Online training is required (free of charge) and a $500 stipend will be offered for full-week commitment to the camp.

If you are interested in getting involved, please check our website regularly. Future camp dates and locations will be posted as camp locations are confirmed. If you see a camp that you are interested in volunteering, please complete the Camp Noah volunteer interest form. In addition, CLDR will be reaching out to local members as needed.

Building at Noah Fun at Camp Noah Fun at Camp Noah

Deployment Alert: Oroville Dam in CA

Credit: Brian van der Burg/Los Angeles Times


Children’s Disaster Services (CDS) has been asked by the American Red Cross to have two teams of volunteers ready to go to Oroville, CA, if needed to help assist as evacuations are underway. Residents are being evacuated after the spillway on a major dam began to break over the weekend. The Red Cross “is thinking that the mass shelter needs will continue to grow,” reports CDS associate director Kathy Fry-Miller. “They have over 2,000 people in shelters currently and are planning for 5,000 people for over 2 weeks.”

If you are trained & certified with CDS and able to deploy in the next 2 weeks (beginning in the next day or two), please contact Kathy Fry-Miller ( it would be helpful to put subject line: “Oroville Dam deployment availability.”  


14 CLDR Members Attend CDS Training in MO

CLDR Independence

We are so excited to have these (pictured) child life specialists and students joining the CLDR movement from the recent Children’s Disaster Services (CDS) training in Independence, Missouri!

Participants at this training spent 27 hours together preparing to work with kids in the immediate aftermath of a disaster. We want to thank all those who made the trip to Independence for this event.

If you are interested in becoming CDS Certified for local and national deployments please visit our training page and sign up!

“Want to see my home?”

I know I have mentioned a lot about the kiddos and their families I’ve encountered. However, I also want to be sure to share these things as well:

The Shelter: the cots and the small area surrounding them became their home

I remember when I was playing with one kiddo he asked me if I wanted to see his home. I replied, “sure”, thinking he would begin to tell me about his home or show me a photo. But instead he grabbed my hand and said “okay let’s go”. He proceeded to take me to a small area in the shelter where him and his family slept. This was an eye-opening encounter.

The bags, boxes, and containers families had by their cots may very well be all they have left!redcrosscot1

The Schools:

The superintendent of the schools came to the shelter every morning with a list of the kids going to each school. He stayed and ensured every kid got on the right bus and got to school.

The Volunteers:

The constant influx of additional volunteers, the kindness and generosity everyone showed to each other, the amount of people that dropped everything and came to respond to the disaster…

Well, the journey has come to an end for me. It feels odd leaving when the disaster relief work is incomplete. In the child life world, I imagine this feeling would be similar to what I would feel if I left in the middle of a procedure. Side note: I have never done that. I keep reminding myself that the amazing CDS team is still there providing support and opportunities for play. Although I may feel I am leaving things unfinished, I think back to the interactions I had with the kids and families, the stories shared, the raw emotions expressed and the impact we had on each other.  The relief and break that was given to parents and family members. The opportunity provided for kids to be kids and to work and communicate through play. The infectious smile one received when observing the child care center. The amount of kids wanting to come to the center significantly increasing as word spread. The numerous thanks and appreciation received.

And as I remember all these things I can’t help but notice a smile spread across my face.


Making Play Out of Anything after Hurricane Matthew – Kelsey Loftus

Our day was filled with lots of adventures from lost GPS signals to unknown place to be and unknown location for staying the night. Once it was all figured out where we would be going, we hit the road. We were told we were going to the fairgrounds. The fairgrounds consisted of a shelter with families from the tribal community and is also in a “dangerous” area.  We also headed off to a second shelter to see if our services would be needed there as well. We were maybe inside for a few seconds when we were approached by some of the kids and quickly became friends.  Here was a group of kids that had just had a traumatic experience, were uprooted from their homes, and were playing and “just being kids”.  I followed their lead as they wanted to put on costumes for Halloween.  Some kids had costumes or parts of costumes to use but one was crying because he didn’t have anything.  I helped him go around and ask if anyone had anything we could use for a costume and we creatively made it happen.  Although they weren’t going out for trick or treat, as probably most had planned before Hurricane Mathew hit, they still put on their costumes with a big smile on their face.

Later, we set up a play space at the first shelters, and at 1pm we were open! The kiddos started trickling in. We weren’t sure how the turn out would be because the tribe does not like to interact with the government, so the shelter manager had warned us that they may not be welcoming. However, we experienced just the opposite. Parents were extremely grateful for us and the opportunity to take a break and engage in self-care.  We had about 10 kids in the room although it felt like more than that at times.  Through my interactions with the kids I could tell they were having a difficult time. The kiddos all shared the fact that they wanted/needed one on one attention and had lots of aggression.


One of the kids, Sam (not his real name), and I quickly became buddies. There was a big box laying out on the floor that the kiddos could use however they wanted, but Sam didn’t see it as a box. He saw it was a firehouse and that is exactly what it became. We took some scissors and made a front door, took a blanket for the top of the box to make the roof, and even had a secret pass word for the door to become unlocked. Next thing I knew, we were running around putting out fires left and right. Another child named Kyle (not his real name) quickly joined in on the fun too. Sam was the firefighter, Kyle the police man, and I was the assistant. We were quite the team. Our firehouse also turned into the firetruck so that we could get to the fires quickly. Once all the fires had been taking care of, our fire house turned into the hospital. Both Sam and Kyle were the doctors. Apparently, I had a very bad fever and needed lots of shots. But, after that I was all better. Thanks to the amazing doctors.

After a while, I noticed Sam appeared to be getting bored and disengaged. So, I worked with him to figure out an activity that he would be interested in, basketball. I found a bucket with a handle that became the basketball hoop once attached to the fence. We used a koosh ball as the basketball and after that it was game on.

All the kids had a blast and told their parents how much fun they had. They all couldn’t wait to return tomorrow morning, and I can’t wait to see what tomorrow brings too.

-Kelsey Loftus

(Sorry for the lack of pictures!  There are strict picture regulations on this deployment.)

Deploying = Out of My Comfort Zone = Best Place to Be!


Sitting here on the plane, a million thoughts run through my head. Starting with how this all came to be, to what this journey will be like. To think this all started from me responding to an email stating I’m available is crazy. I remember Children’s Disaster Services writing back stating it may be difficult to get us out on a Sunday but they will still send it in for approval with the Red Cross and see what happens. They said they would try to let me know as far in advance as possible. I remember taking a deep breath and saying to myself “you know what… this Is in God’s hands. If it’s meant to be and God wants me there, then it will all work out and if not then maybe next time”.  Side note: I have never said anything like this in my life.

And what do you know, hours later I got a call saying “it’s a go”. When those words reached my ears, my heart jumped out of my chest. I wasn’t sure what to think or feel. Don’t get me wrong, I was excited but there was a whole mix of emotions.

  • Joy for the opportunity
  • Sadness for all the people affected by the disaster
  • Curiosity for how it will be and how it all comes together
  • Fear of the unknown
  • Excitement for a new journey and challenge
  • Nerves as this is something very new
  • Happiness to be able to use my skills and time to help those in need

Now this is also coming from the girl that has never traveled alone before. So the fact that I am sitting here on the plane not only independently, but also where everything is literately up in the air and can change at the drop of a hat is even crazier.

But despite the endless mix of emotions, the one I feel the strongest is a sense of calmness and peace for I am in the right place and where I am meant to be.


Ready, set, go! Stand down…GO!

Sunday night at 8:09pm I received a text from one of my local teammates and all it said was “Deploying!! Can you go?” To be honest, my first thoughts were “I’m not able to go…” I sat there trying to wrap my head around my hesitations…

You see, last week there was a possibility that I would be deployed and I “felt ready.” The timing seemed great, my team at work was fully staffed, I was feeling energized and rested. But, we ended up being told to “stand down.”

Quickly I recognized how selfish I was being, as pictures fullsizerfrom the news flashed through my mind from Hurricane Matthew. My heart was quickly softened as I thought about how hard these past few weeks must have been for the families and children in Fayetteville, North Carolina. I was overwhelmed as I started to think about the 11 children that are living in a shelter and have witnessed things far harder then anything I have ever experienced. I sent an emailing saying I would check in with my management team first thing Monday morning but would try to go…

Monday morning my management worked some magic! My team at work is amazing and supportive – I was cleared to go! I sent Children’s Disaster Services an email saying I was ready….that’s when the waiting began…

I received confirmation that I would be going and that details would be coming my way. If you know me at all, you know I am a planner and like to know what I am heading into, where I will be staying, what time I need to be ready, etc. If you have worked in the field of disaster relief at all, you are probably laughing at this moment…

Monday evening came and went and I had no information on what time I would be leaving. I set an alarm for 5:00am and began checking my email every 10 minutes. I became a bit anxious as my teammates (there are 4 of us going from all over the country) started to get their flight itinerary and I still had not heard anything. I have yet to meet anyone on my team but when I was sent the roster on Monday, I began texting one of them. I sat in my PJ’s sipping coffee at home as she was on her way to the airport with a flight itinerary in hand…

Around 10:30am it finally came, an email was sent and my flight was booked to leave out of Cincinnati at 2:35pm. I packed a bag with no more detail then I would be going with a team of four to Fayetteville, North Carolina where I will be assisting with disaster relief after Hurricane Matthew in a shelter that is housing 48 residents, 11 of whom are children. I don’t know where I am staying or if I needed to bring a pillow or sleeping bag (I didn’t bring one). My plane is boarding and I am on my way with a one-way ticket to Fayetteville, North Carolina!



One Trauma Unveils Another…

A few weeks ago, my local CLDR team got our first dispatch call: a multi-family apartment fire with 2 fatalities.  We were being called to assist with a grandmother and her child with autism who both were living in the complex and evacuated at this time.  Woah…fire, death, autism…this is a big one to handle for our first local call, I took a deep breath, and texted my team brief details to find out who could respond.

Within a few hours, I reached out to the grandmother via phone.  I introduced myself, listened to her story, and began trying to gather information to help inform our services.  The conversation was a little rocky as the child hadn’t left her side since the fire and was becoming upset when his grandmother discussed anything related to it on the phone.  We kept the conversation pretty vague due to this…I was very thankful for my previous experience working in developmental and behavioral pediatrics as many of the sensory stressors and behavioral reactions the grandmother explained were familiar.  We ended the conversation with an appointment for me to “meet & greet” with her son, she said “he either likes you or he doesn’t, I don’t want you to waste your time on helping us if he doesn’t approve.”  Talk about pressure!

As I hung up the phone I felt so unprepared…ugh, I don’t even have a rough idea of this child’s experience of the fire, the relationship they had with those that died, the cause of the fire…was it human error?  How was I supposed to go help without an idea of what I was stepping into?  I had the weekend to figure that out…or just think about it!

Monday morning I met them at their temporary housing.  Myself and a colleague were greeted with a huge smile from a sweet 5-year-old boy and his grandmother catching some fresh air on the porch.  What unravelled, was astonishing!  To be honest, I thought I was prepared for anything –  I’ve got years of experience as a CCLS, in a trauma bay and with children with autism…that covers it right?

The boy and my colleague played, and played, and played….0d86ca35368f0f44ac6fcff8d3021beethey played with play-doh, played with his favorite alligator (saved from the fire – thank goodness!), played with bubbles, and even did some coloring.  I sat with the grandmother at the opposite end of the room and listened….for 2 hours.

Story after story unravelled of hardships I couldn’t even begin to imagine!  This grandmother needed to be heard.  I quickly realized that the trauma I had been called in for “the fire” was the least of this family’s concerns at this time.  The child had endured more in his life than any human being should EVER have to endure.  The grandmother had given her entire life and seemingly only been met with devastation – tornadoes, fires, loss, terminal illness…the list goes on.  Despite these circumstances, I found myself in awe of this grandmother’s ability to assist her child in coping.  She described her understanding of his needs to communicate about the fire, but “in a different way”, this she accomplished through a “news-reporter” game.  She went on to recognize how the child revealed his experience of the fire through this game…”after a while of playing news reporter he got up and started running in circles…I let him run…and finally I asked ‘what are you doing?’, his response…I’m getting our neighbors outta here!”

As I prepared for our time together to end, I found myself trying to find something, just one more thing I could do to help.  Prior to our arrival, I had tentatively thought a social story about the fire or his new home would be helpful, helping to transition and to establish a sense of safety again.  Maybe giving the child the time and space to engage in child-directed play would be helpful.  Maybe walking through the rubbled home together to gather meaningful items with this child would be helpful.  Maybe I would do some grief/loss work with this child regarding the fatalities. Maybe I would just simply be offering the grandmother education regarding her child’s reactions, needs, and potential interventions to alleviate continued traumatic effects.  Maybe offering validation of safety and assisting in ridding any feelings of guilt/fault.  None of these things, aside from safety and play, seemed helpful at this time…and to be honest safety wasn’t even something I could confidently guarantee due to family circumstances.

I realized throughout our interaction that what this family needed most was community resources.  I also found myself thinking about how significantly this child’s development had seemingly been grossly affected by chronic stress and trauma.  With the permission of the family, I made a cold call to our developmental specialty clinic in the area, talked with the social worker, spoke with their assessment team, and the next day made a referral for further assessment and resources.

I guess in many ways this first call looked like any other day in the life of a child life specialist….unpredictable circumstances that require creativity,  flexibility, and compassion.

A week later, we received another call requesting our services for victims of this same fire – this time it was to work with the SEVEN children of those that had died in the fire…


Michigan CCLS joining the CDS team in LA!

We are excited to have a Michigan Certified Child Life Specialist joining the Children’s Disaster Services(CDS) teams in Louisiana!  Thus far the CDS teams have cared for over 165 children – keep up the great work!

We continue to keep all those recovering from this disaster in our thoughts and prayers as they continue to encounter the affect of this devastating flooding.

This image was shared by Children’s Disaster Services, demonstrating a structure built by two children in their play space, they called it a “Super Mega Tower, that the water can’t get in!”

CDS VA pic