07/19/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

The Disaster Decade: Lessons Unlearned

Yesterday morning at the Edward C. Mazique child care center in D.C.,
Save the Children's U.S. Programs released a new report revealing the
state of our nation's preparedness to protect children during a
manmade or natural disaster. The findings are not encouraging.

After ten years of unrelenting and unprecedented disasters -- what
will be remembered as The Disaster Decade -- only seven states meet
Save the Children's four minimum safety standards to care for the 67
million kids who are in child care or school on any given day.

Throughout this Disaster Decade, children watched or experienced
skyscrapers collapsing, cities flooded, neighborhoods burning to the
ground and bedrock economic institutions collapsing, forcing families
from their homes.

The report and state-by-state scorecard
shows how state governments have responded to the Disaster Decade and
examines existing disaster preparedness requirements for child care
facilities in each state, including their plans for evacuation, for
family unification and for special needs kids. We also looked at
whether K-12 schools have multi-hazard disaster plans.

Simply put, the most vulnerable Americans in the most vulnerable
setting are made more vulnerable because government isn't doing its
job to protect them.

We also looked at the economic disaster. Indeed, through a child's
eyes, if his or her family is kicked out of their home because of
twelve feet of water or twelve feet of debt, it's still traumatic.
While there's anecdotal evidence of increased demand for food aid and
a rise in child abuse, there is no comprehensive study of the
recession's effect on children.

So we're advocating for change.

The Disaster Decade report includes a five-point plan for positive change.

First, we want the federal government to find a way to tie federal
child care and education dollars to the four basic criteria in the
report, giving states an economic incentive to protect their children.

Second, we want a new Office of Children's Advocacy -- or a Kid's Desk
-- at FEMA. Right now, FEMA has only one person handling what are
called "special needs" -- which means that the needs of the 25 percent
of the population that are kids get lumped with the needs of other

Third, following a major event, child care centers have taken a
backseat to other recovery efforts, making it harder for parents to
get back to work and back on track with their lives. We want to make
child care centers eligible for federal disaster aid for the first
time ever.

Fourth, so that we better understand how the economic disaster is
affecting kids, a White House Commission on the Effects of the Economy
on Children could begin to reveal the effects of the recession on kids
so that we can provide them with the support they need and deserve.

Finally, most families are unaware of the unique needs of children
during disasters. So a Public Service Announcement campaign would go
a long way toward making families more aware of what we need to do to
help kids.

After our visit to the child care center we went to Capitol Hill to
lobby for enactment of our plan and we already got a very positive
response from the Obama Administration.

These steps are low-cost, common sense measures. And their enactment
will help ensure that when disaster strikes -- and they will -- the
effects on our children don't become a disaster in their own right.

You can help us be a voice for change by signing this petition asking
Congress and the Obama Administration to adopt our five-point plan for
change. With
your help we can ensure a safer reality for America's children.