Children play with trained Save the Children staff and volunteers in a Child Friendly Space in an emergency shelter in the Florida Panhandle in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael. Save the Children's Child Friendly Spaces are safe, designated areas where children can play, socialize and begin to recover after a disaster, while allowing their parents to concentrate on addressing immediate and longer-term recovery needs. Photo credit: Nicolle Keogh / Save the Children.

One Month after Hurricane Michael, Save the Children Prioritizes Child Care, Emotional Recovery

FAIRFIELD, Conn. (November 13, 2018) — The strongest storm on record to ever hit the Florida Panhandle, Hurricane Michael, has damaged or destroyed many child care and early learning centers across the Panhandle – including more than 60 percent in Bay and Calhoun counties. Save the Children is working with education partners in the Sunshine State to help restore these centers so children can begin to recover and get back to learning.

“Children can begin to cope when they are able to interact and play with their peers and resume a normal routine,” said Sarah Thompson, Save the Children's director of U.S. emergencies. “Getting children back into daycare and preschool classrooms is critical to community recovery across the Panhandle. It will help children stay engaged and focused on learning during this stressful time, and enable parents to get back to work.”

Save the Children is the national leader in helping restore child care and early education centers after emergencies, and continues to lead such efforts in Florida in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma and in Texas and Puerto Rico in the wake of Hurricanes Harvey and Maria.

Together with local and state partners, Save the Children has been assessing the damage of child care and early learning centers in the Panhandle, and providing restoration support and supplies that will help children return to safe learning environments as quickly as possible after Hurricane Michael.

In addition, as schools in the hardest hit areas of the Panhandle begin to reopen, Save the Children is planning to partner with schools, child care centers and community centers to roll out its flagship social and emotional recovery program, Journey of Hope. The evidence-based program, developed after Hurricane Katrina, helps children and caregivers cope with trauma, reduce stress and become more resilient in the aftermath of an emergency.

“In addition to losing their homes and access to education, children have lost their sense of security and need time and help to heal emotionally,” said Thompson. “Save the Children is dedicated to supporting the wellbeing and education of Florida’s children for the long-term.”

“The consequences of severe distress for children include health problems, difficulties with learning, ongoing behavior problems, and fractured relationships – so it’s critical that they have the opportunity to process their feelings after traumatic events,” added Thompson. “Save the Children’s Journey of Hope program provides children a safe, small group setting to explore and normalize emotions, develop healthy coping skills, build confidence and foster positive peer relationships.”

Save the Children's emergency response team was deployed before Hurricane Michael made landfall, working to meet children and families' immediate needs. It established Child Friendly Spaces in evacuation shelters in areas disrupted by the storm, as well as distributed essential supplies to shelters, such as infant and toddler hygiene supplies, diapers, baby wipes and strollers. Save the Children's Child Friendly Spaces are safe, designated areas where children can play, socialize and begin to recover after a disaster, while allowing their parents to concentrate on addressing immediate and longer-term recovery needs.

By contributing to Save the Children’s Hurricane Michael Children’s Relief Fund, you can help Save the Children protect vulnerable children and provide desperately needed relief to families.

To learn more about Save the Children, please go to www.SavetheChildren.org.

Save the Children gives children in the United States and around the world a healthy start, the opportunity to learn and protection from harm. We invest in childhood — every day, in times of crisis and for our future. Follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

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