OJJDP is partnering with the National Commission on Children and Disasters to explore creative ways to support state planning activities pertaining to disaster preparedness of youth-serving systems across the nation. Under the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2008, the Commission was authorized to conduct a comprehensive study that examines and assesses children's needs as they relate to preparedness for, response to, and recovery from major disasters; to review and evaluate existing laws, regulations, and policies relevant to these needs; identify and evaluate lessons learned from past disasters; and report to the President and Congress on its findings and recommendations.
The Commission's interim report, released in October 2009, recommended the formation of a working group focused specifically on issues related to the needs of youth in the juvenile justice system during disasters. Laurie Robinson, Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Justice Programs, appointed Melodee Hanes, Counselor to the Administrator and Acting Deputy Administrator for Policy, OJJDP, to lead the team, officially known as the Justice Working Group on Children and Disasters.
The working group is preparing a guidance document that will assist decisionmakers in developing plans to ensure the safety and well-being of youth in custody in the event of a disaster. The document will address a range of issues, including information sharing across agencies, alternate locations for housing youth, evacuation, emergency staffing of juvenile justice facilities, communication, and mental health services. The document is slated for publication in 2011.