South Carolina’s floods took a tragic toll on the Palmetto State, with the loss of lives, homes and businesses, and still untold damage to roads and infrastructure. It is clear that we have a lengthy recovery ahead.
Evidence suggests that the toll the floods took on the young children may linger long after more visible repairs have been made. Of special concern to us are the hundreds of families and children forced from their homes, many of whom will require long-term, alternative accommodations, after seeing their houses and apartment buildings completely destroyed.
Schools have reopened, but this is a mixed blessing for many displaced families who found temporary shelter at schools in the immediate aftermath of the storms. These families are being moved to alternate locations, causing further upheaval in their lives. In addition, child-care centers, on which many working families and their children depend, have been damaged, and some have not yet re-opened, creating hardship for their teachers and the families they serve.
Make no mistake about it: South Carolina’s worst flooding in centuries will have a lasting impact on many of its children and families. Recent studies of children impacted by Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and Hurricane Sandy in 2012 show that such emergencies can have negative impacts on children years after the waters have subsided.
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Consider 8-year-old Antanique, who expressed concern for her 6-year-old sister, Kaleis, after the floods. “My sister, she was shaking, shaking,” Antanique recalled. “I almost fell in the water because it was coming into the house. I’m glad it didn’t come upstairs.”
Such memories do not fade quickly. There is a pressing need to help schools and child-care centers assist children such as Antanique so they can express their feelings and work through the trauma they have experienced.
That’s why Save the Children and First Steps are working with strong local partners to assess the long-term needs of displaced families and children. Among our partners are the Department of Social Services, the American Red Cross, schools districts including those in Clarendon and Orangeburg counties, faith-based groups such as Christ Central Ministries and local elected leaders such as Columbia City Councilman Cameron Runyan.
How to find assistance after flooding
We are focusing on two key goals:
▪ Re-opening and re-equipping child-care centers. As it has done in many other U.S. disasters, Save the Children has joined forces with a statewide partner with a strong local infrastructure in First Steps. Our collaborative partnership will enable us to help child-care centers so that they can reopen as quickly as possible. In collaboration with the S.C. Department of Social Services, we are completing assessments of damage to these centers — each essential to helping children resume their normal lives and deal with any trauma they may have suffered. Child-care centers are also essential to parents, who can take comfort in knowing their children are safe and cared for as they return to work and rebuild their lives.
▪ Providing training for child-care centers. Both of our organizations provide training and technical assistance to those who serve the youngest and neediest. Save the Children is seeking funding to help provide support for much-needed social-emotional training for South Carolina’s child-care teachers. Proven programs that have helped in the wake of the Oklahoma tornadoes and other disasters are available, and First Steps is ready to help deploy these programs.
Together, we plan to make the well-being of every child and family impacted by the floods a top priority. We hope the recovery we have seen so far will continue to reach the most vulnerable among us.
Ms. DeVenny is director of S.C. First Steps to School Readiness, and Ms. Hardway is Save the Children’s emergency response team leader in South Carolina. Contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org or ahardway@