One of the most important factors in promoting resilience and positive outcomes post-disaster for children is the services and support they receive within those first few hours after a traumatic event. Unfortunately, this is also one of the largest gaps in disaster services for children; there are currently no nationally coordinated services directly focused on trauma-informed care for children provided by trained and certified professionals during these first few hours.  

We believe Certified Child Life Specialists (CCLS) have the competency and skill-set to fill this gap and provide life-changing support to children and families affected by large and small-scale disasters (i.e., shootings, house fires, fatal accidents). In fact, CCLSs are already supporting children during this timeframe within trauma bays, Emergency Departments, and Intensive Care Units.  

But what about those children that didn’t have a medical condition that brought them to the hospital, or those children who were bystanders soaking in the entire experience from a perimeter?

Child Life Disaster Relief’s Local Task Force, made possible by Child’s Play Charity, has been working steadily on this goal of providing a coordinated and structured network of local response teams to fill this gap.  CLDR local response teams consist of a Local Program Manager (responsible for leading and coordinating services) and Local Responders (responsible for providing direct services).

Over the last year, we have been able to hire eight local program managers to pilot our local programming in seven cities: 

(Left to Right: Becca Majerczyk, Tiffany Heinz, Stephanie Michel-Siddall, Shannon Vacarro, Heather Storey, Katie Stein, Debbie Wagers, Danielle Eaves Hernandez)

View a larger version of Local PM locations created with eSpatial mapping software.

Debbie Wagers & Shannon Vaccaro Omaha, NE
Becca Majerczyk Phoenix, AZ
Danielle Eaves Hernandez Jacksonville, FL
Heather Storey Cincinnati, OH
Katie Stein Madison, CT
Tiffany Heinz Detroit, MI
Stephanie Michel-Siddall Dallas, TX

Local Program Managers are currently working on identifying and building formalized partnerships with local disaster serving entities and recruiting CLDR Local Responders in their regions. Simultaneously, CLDR’s leadership has been collaborating with national partners to ensure a collaborative and seamless system is established nationwide.  

CLDR is excited to learn from this pilot program and eager to systematically expand this program to more cities nationwide in the years to come.  

If you are interested in getting involved and reside in one of the seven pilot cities, please contact your CLDR Local Program Manager (contact information linked above).  If you are interested in leading this initiative in your own city as a CLDR Local Program Manager, please learn more about that potential opportunity here: https://cldisasterrelief.org/cldr-local-program-manager/.