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Exploring Disaster Human Services for Children and Youth: From Hurricane Katrina to the Paradise Wildfires: Proceedings of a Workshop Series (2021)

Chapter: 2 Exposure Outliers: Children Coming of Age in an Age of Environmental Extremes

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Suggested Citation:"2 Exposure Outliers: Children Coming of Age in an Age of Environmental Extremes." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Exploring Disaster Human Services for Children and Youth: From Hurricane Katrina to the Paradise Wildfires: Proceedings of a Workshop Series. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26158.
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Suggested Citation:"2 Exposure Outliers: Children Coming of Age in an Age of Environmental Extremes." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Exploring Disaster Human Services for Children and Youth: From Hurricane Katrina to the Paradise Wildfires: Proceedings of a Workshop Series. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26158.
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Page 22
Suggested Citation:"2 Exposure Outliers: Children Coming of Age in an Age of Environmental Extremes." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Exploring Disaster Human Services for Children and Youth: From Hurricane Katrina to the Paradise Wildfires: Proceedings of a Workshop Series. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26158.
×
Page 23
Suggested Citation:"2 Exposure Outliers: Children Coming of Age in an Age of Environmental Extremes." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Exploring Disaster Human Services for Children and Youth: From Hurricane Katrina to the Paradise Wildfires: Proceedings of a Workshop Series. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26158.
×
Page 24
Suggested Citation:"2 Exposure Outliers: Children Coming of Age in an Age of Environmental Extremes." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Exploring Disaster Human Services for Children and Youth: From Hurricane Katrina to the Paradise Wildfires: Proceedings of a Workshop Series. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26158.
×
Page 25
Suggested Citation:"2 Exposure Outliers: Children Coming of Age in an Age of Environmental Extremes." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Exploring Disaster Human Services for Children and Youth: From Hurricane Katrina to the Paradise Wildfires: Proceedings of a Workshop Series. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26158.
×
Page 26
Suggested Citation:"2 Exposure Outliers: Children Coming of Age in an Age of Environmental Extremes." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Exploring Disaster Human Services for Children and Youth: From Hurricane Katrina to the Paradise Wildfires: Proceedings of a Workshop Series. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26158.
×
Page 27
Suggested Citation:"2 Exposure Outliers: Children Coming of Age in an Age of Environmental Extremes." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Exploring Disaster Human Services for Children and Youth: From Hurricane Katrina to the Paradise Wildfires: Proceedings of a Workshop Series. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26158.
×
Page 28

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2 Exposure Outliers: Children Coming of Age in an Age of Environmental Extremes Lori Peek, director of the Natural Hazards Center and professor at the University of Colorado Boulder, delivered the keynote address. She described the landscape of increased disasters, crises, and threats currently experienced by children and youth in the United States and explained how cumulative disaster exposure can have negative effects on survivors. She also called for placing the perspectives of children and youth in the center of the effort to improve disaster response services. Peek defined cumulative disaster exposure and outlined its negative effects on survivors. Roberta Lavin, professor at the University of New Mexico College of Nursing, moderated the session. ENGAGING AND LEARNING FROM CHILDREN AFFECTED BY DISASTERS Peek remarked that the current generation of children is coming of age in a world that is drier and hotter than ever before, is regularly punctuated by severe storms, and will almost certainly continue to be ravaged by cli- mate extremes. Peek stated that as of July 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic claimed more than 600,000 lives globally and upended billions more; the United States continued to be convulsed by protests against racism and other forms of inequality; and the epidemic of gun violence continued to devastate young lives. She added that March 2020 was the first month of March in nearly two decades without a school shooting in the United States. Children and youth of this generation know no other world than one marked by disaster, she said, noting that this is especially true for those 21 PREPUBLICATION COPY—Uncorrected Proofs

22 EXPLORING DISASTER HUMAN SERVICES FOR CHILDREN AND YOUTH in low-income areas and in communities of color—populations that almost always “suffer first and worst” in this age of extremes. Having so many children living in a permanent state of emergency in the United States has stirred the collective conscience and the intellectual imagination of those participating in research and practice related to children and disasters. She maintained that although there is cause for great concern, there is also hope that can be gleaned from children and youth. Peek said that it is vital to engage children and youth, listen to what they have to say, and learn from the impressive actions that they are already taking in response to the threats of natural hazards. For this reason, she called for a follow up to the 2010 National Commission on Children and Disasters (NCCD) that is child and youth led. Peek said that in the 15 years she has spent working with and learning from children and the adults who parent, teach, coach, treat, and support them, she has developed a deep and abiding respect for the knowledge of children. She suggested that the stories of the intellectual creativity, moral courage, and compassion that these children and their caregivers have shown during times of great loss and suffering should be captured and used for systematic learning and, ultimately, for the improvement of service provision during times of disaster. To that end, Peek has documented stories ­ of child survivors of Hurricane Katrina in two multiyear ethnographic projects. She and Alice Fothergill of the Department of Sociology at the University of Vermont co-authored the book Children of Katrina (­Fothergill and Peek, 2015). Peek also edited and contributed to Displaced: Life in the Katrina Diaspora, a collection of scholarly accounts of the resettlement experiences of mostly African American Katrina survivors who were scat- tered across the nation following the storm (Weber and Peek, 2014). CUMULATIVE EFFECTS OF COLLECTIVE TRAUMA EVENTS Peek described how cumulative effects of collective trauma events can affect people in myriad ways. From 2005 to 2015, the U.S. Gulf Coast experienced numerous disasters, with more than a dozen major disaster declarations in the State of Louisiana alone. Beginning with the catastrophic ­ Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005, the decade brought Hurri­anes c ­ ustav and Ike in 2008, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010, Hurri- G cane Isaac in 2012, and additional severe storms and flooding. These events caused billions of dollars in damages, destroyed millions of homes, schools, and businesses, and upended countless lives. Although many different mea- sures are used in social and behavioral sciences to assess the human toll of disasters, said Peek, the words of children demonstrate the impact that a successive shock of disasters can have on young people. For example, she interviewed an African American teen who was 6 years old at the time of PREPUBLICATION COPY—Uncorrected Proofs

EXPOSURE OUTLIERS 23 Hurricane Katrina. When asked at age 17 what it was like to grow up in a context of so many disasters, he said, “What I thought was a childhood was just me really preparing myself for the next natural disaster to come.” Peek defined cumulative disaster exposure as “multiple, acute onset, large-scale collective events that cause disruptions for individuals, families, and entire communities” (Mohammad and Peek, 2019). She stated that those who have experienced three or more major, community-level disasters that have had a substantial effect on both the individual and their house- hold during their first 18 years of life are considered “exposure outliers.” These youth are statistical outliers because their multiple experiences with disaster are not normative. However, Peek surmised that those norms may change given the increasing frequency of disasters, and that in an increas- ingly turbulent and unequal world, researchers should seek to learn more about the cumulative effects of collective trauma from children who are exposure outliers. Drawing on the limited research available on cumulative effects of disasters and the more robust literature on adverse childhood experiences at the individual level, Peek outlined a number of ways that cumulative disaster exposure and prolonged displacement can affect people (see Box 2-1). Peek likened this process to the effect of experiencing succes- sive concussions, in which the second concussion causes more harm to the human brain than the first concussion. Cumulative trauma is similarly mul- tiplicative—rather than additive—in terms of how it affects a child’s life. A CALL TO ACTION FROM THE NATIONAL COMMISSION ON CHILDREN AND DISASTERS Peek emphasized that as disasters increase in frequency and magni- tude, work to assess the acute and the enduring effects of these events on children’s lives has never been more urgent. She described the human suf- BOX 2-1 Effects of Cumulative Disaster Exposure and Prolonged Displacement • W  orsened mental health symptoms • H  igher risk of major physical health problems • A  mplification of the effect of future collective trauma exposures • N  egative behavioral outcomes among adults • C  umulative vulnerability, or a “declining trajectory,” among children SOURCE: Peek presentation, July 22, 2020. PREPUBLICATION COPY—Uncorrected Proofs

24 EXPLORING DISASTER HUMAN SERVICES FOR CHILDREN AND YOUTH fering on full display after Hurricane Katrina as activating the collective conscience of the nation. Peek stated that “the emergency response, aca- demic, and policy communities sprang into action to provide life-sustaining resources and generate life-saving knowledge.” Peek said that for child and disaster researchers and practitioners, arguably the most important inter- vention to come out of that disaster was the creation of the presidentially appointed NCCD that developed groundbreaking interim and final reports (Lavin et al., 2009; NCCD and AHRQ, 2010). The final report included a call for a National Strategy on Children and Disasters and recognized the unique needs of children affected by disasters: The Commission respectfully calls on the President to develop and present to Congress a National Strategy on Children and Disasters…. The strategy would sound an unequivocal call to action to engage one another around a cohesive set of meaningful national goals and priorities to remedy the years of benign neglect of children. The unique needs of children must be more thoroughly integrated into planning and made a clear and distinct priority in all disaster management activities. (NCCD and AHRQ, 2010) Citing research conducted by Save the Children and other groups,1 Peek said that real progress has been achieved on certain fronts in response to the concrete recommendations that were made in the commission’s influ- ential report. However, she noted that in the decade since its publication, many of the recommendations have not been acted on. Peek described 2020 as an age of extremes—not only environmental extremes, extreme social and economic inequality, and extreme political and public division, but also a moment of extreme social engagement and action. Some of the larg- est peaceful protests in U.S. national history have been taking place, with helping behavior and mutual aid being offered across generations and on an unprecedented scale. This historic moment is an opportunity to estab- lish a new NCCD to follow up on the historic contributions of the 2010 report, said Peek. She suggested that this follow up should place children’s voices, perspectives, creativity, contributions, and rights in the center of the discussion. Rationale for Placing Children’s Voices in the Center of the Discussion Peek outlined three reasons why it is urgent that children’s voices be placed in the center of research, practice, and policy making in this area. First, children are the experts on their own lives and thus there is much to 1  More information about Save the Children is available at https://www.savethechildren.org (accessed October 23, 2020). PREPUBLICATION COPY—Uncorrected Proofs

EXPOSURE OUTLIERS 25 learn from them; in this respect, they are an enormous resource. She and colleagues analyzed news media coverage of children’s contributions after Hurricane Katrina and determined that children donated or raised more than $471 million in Katrina relief. Furthermore, children helped generate more than 14,000 toy donations, organized the collection of more than 23,000 books and 400 reading kits, and volunteered time and labor after Katrina. She added that those estimates were limited to those included in media coverage, so it does not encompass countless efforts children made that were not covered by the press. Secondly, Peek argued that chil- dren’s voices should be more carefully placed in the center of these efforts because, despite their many contributions, children are typically excluded from decision-making activities that will affect them now and well into the future. For instance, children do not vote and are excluded from the very decision-making processes that will have a profound influence on their health, safety, and well-being now and into the future (Anderson, 2005; Peek, 2008). Thirdly, she maintained that if children are not included in this crucial, historic moment, then the opportunity to harness the creativ- ity, courage, compassion, and energetic commitment of one-fourth of the nation’s population will be squandered. Peek explained that to forge a path through the multiple cascading crises of today’s world, everyone will need to work together—including children and youth populations—across the divisions that typically keep groups apart and prevent them from recog- nizing their interdependence with one another. She urged participants to continue uplifting the voices and needs of children and youth and acting on their behalf. DISCUSSION Lavin noted that NCCD did not speak directly with children during their deliberations. She asked Peek if she recommends that the poten- tial follow-on commission have conversations with children. Peek replied that after Hurricane Katrina and every large-scale disaster since, child- and youth-led groups have mobilized. In fact, after Hurricane Katrina, there were so many child- and youth-led groups in New Orleans that an umbrella organization was created to help organize them. She emphasized that children are organizing and making contributions in many spheres of society. Thus, if there is a presidentially-appointed follow-on commission to NCCD, Peek not only recommended that the adult commissioners speak to children and youth, but that a diverse range of children and youth be made a core part of the commission’s work. Lavin asked whether adolescents make up the majority of youth who volunteer and act in response to disasters. Peek emphasized the importance of taking an intersectional approach to all analyses and noted that in their PREPUBLICATION COPY—Uncorrected Proofs

26 EXPLORING DISASTER HUMAN SERVICES FOR CHILDREN AND YOUTH analysis of 10 years of newspaper coverage of children’s contributions in the aftermath of Katrina, her team at the Natural Hazard Center looked at the ages of children involved. They found that contributions were not limited to teenagers, who have more autonomy than younger children. Children as young as preschoolers were engaged in support activities—for example, by collecting pennies to send penny jars to the Gulf Coast. The analyses showed that children and youth were contributing across the age spectrum, as well as having diversity across race, ethnicity, and gender. In the context of exploring matrices for evaluating response and recov- ery efforts related to social and human services, Lavin asked about any ongoing efforts to study groups of children postdisaster to document the development of those most affected. Peek responded that social sciences research around disasters has shown that having the capacity to volunteer and help can promote postdisaster recovery. For example, Steffen and Fothergill (2019) analyzed the effects of volunteerism after the 9/11 terror- ist attacks and found that volunteering helped to put people on the recovery trajectory. Other researchers have been documenting disaster-specific case studies of children after disasters such as the Joplin tornado, Hurricane Katrina, and Superstorm Sandy. Peek highlighted the need for cross-scale, cross-geographic, and cross-disaster comparisons to help identify points of commonality and differences among disasters across time and scale. Heather Beal, founder and president of BLOCKS Inc., noted that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has a Youth Preparedness Council for high school students;2 she asked Peek about the possibility of establishing a similar council for elementary and middle school students. Lavin asked about research to assess the effect of the Youth Preparedness Council. Peek was unaware of studies that systematically assessed the progress of the youth council participants and leaders over time, but she suggested that researchers should do so. She noted the Blizzard Bag project, ­ organized by the FEMA Region VIII Youth Council leader, was able to reach thousands of children and youth across the state of Colorado to help them prepare for blizzards. That youth leader is now studying engineering in college and has continued his commitment to emergency preparedness planning, she added. Peek commented that she and her graduate students were prompted to conduct the bottom-up analysis of children’s contributions after Hurricane Katrina by their participation in Virgil Storr and Stefanie Haeffele’s book, Bottom-Up Responses to Crisis (Haeffele and Storr, 2020). In that chapter, Peek and colleagues wrote about how children are creating change from the bottom up. She then co-authored a chapter in Government Responses 2  More information about FEMA’s Youth Preparedness Council is available at https://www. ready.gov/kids/youth-preparedness-council (accessed October 23, 2020). PREPUBLICATION COPY—Uncorrected Proofs

EXPOSURE OUTLIERS 27 to Crisis (Peek and Domingue, 2020) about top-down actions of federal programs focused specifically on children and disasters, which examined whether the focus was on mitigation, preparedness, response, or recovery. Peek highlighted a gap in mitigation programs for children and youth, noting that federal partners tend to focus on emergency preparedness and response. However, she added that FEMA and other federal agencies have child- and youth-focused programs that are bringing more children into the natural hazard space than ever before. Lavin asked about strategies to build the evidence base for continuity and restoration of social and human services. Peek replied that the first step is to take stock of what is already happening in the field, thereby building important connections and understanding the work of other organizations in order to set an agenda for action. “We cannot change the landscape if we do not understand the current status of the landscape,” she said. PREPUBLICATION COPY—Uncorrected Proofs

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To explore issues related to the effects of disasters on children and youth and lessons learned from experiences during previous disasters, the virtual workshop From Hurricane Katrina to Paradise Wildfires, Exploring Themes in Disaster Human Services was convened on July 22 and 23, 2020, by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. The workshop was designed to focus on families engaged with federal, state or local supportive programs prior to disasters. Additional areas of focus were the coordination of disaster response efforts and the transition to reestablishing routine service delivery programs post-disaster by human services, social services, and public health agencies at the state, local, tribal, and territorial levels. The workshop was also intended to provide a platform for highlighting promising practices, ongoing challenges, and potential opportunities for coordinated delivery and restoration of social and human services programs. This publication summarizes the presentations and discussion of the workshop.

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