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Report: States Need Better Disaster Regulations for Child-Care Centers

Guest blog post by Jaclyn Zubrzycki

Only 17 states have sufficient regulations to make sure that children in schools and day cares are properly protected in the case of natural disasters, according to a new report from Save the Children, a nonprofit focused on children's safety and welfare.

As we reported over on State Ed Watch earlier today, Save the Children releases its fifth annual review of disaster-preparedness and safety standards just as the Gulf Coast marks the seventh anniversary of Hurricane Katrina while weathering Hurricane Isaac, and while much of the rest of the country continues to cope with what is on track to be the worst year for wildfires on record.

The organization's report reflects states' progress in addressing a set of recommendations made by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service's National Commission on Children and Disasters in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Three of the four standards it recommends are focused on child-care centers, which are less likely to have disaster-preparation plans and are not required to comply with federal laws that affect K-12 disaster plans, according to Richard Bland, the director of state policy and advocacy for Save the Children's U.S. Programs.

Save the Children's standards entail that each state should have:


  • A plan for evacuating children in child care (which should go "beyond the provisions of a basic fire drill");

  • A plan for reuniting families after a disaster;

  • A plan for children with disabilities and those with access and functional needs;and

  • A multihazard plan for K-12 schools. (Focusing just on tornado and fire drills, for instance, means schools might not be prepared for a disaster like an earthquake or gun violence.)

Part of the organization's goal is to ensure that states are more specific in their regulations—by specifically addressing children with disabilities in their plans, for instance—and to ensure that all facilities are covered by regulations. "Child-care classification differs greatly among the states," Mr. Bland said. Some states that do not meet the group's standards may have regulations for some, but not all, child-care providers, Mr. Bland said, citing Kentucky as a state that, though it now meets all four standards, had initially excluded home-based child care from its regulations.

State laws, regulations, or regulations from relevant state agencies like education departments can all meet the Save the Children standards. It would be interesting to check to see whether the states that have all four standards are more likely to have early-childhood facilities tied into their education departments or health departments, or whether they're more likely to have standards addressed in state law. Save the Children has that information, Mr. Bland said, and the regulations vary state-by-state, but the report doesn't delve into that level of detail.

Only four states met the group's standards in 2008, so there's been movement towards increased disaster-preparedness regulation. The report points to Indiana, Virginia, Wyoming, and Louisiana as states that have made significant strides. The report has a comprehensive chart detailing each states' progress in meeting the standards.

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