A Disaster Ready Toolkit Designed for Child Care Needs


Holly Nett, Director of Child Care Emergency Partnerships, presenting at the CCAoA National Symposium.

Guest author Holly Nett, Director of Child Care Emergency Partnerships at Child Care Aware® of America, shares how the organization partnered with FEMA to build a disaster ready toolkit focused on child care needs.

When FEMA launched the Organizations Preparing for Emergency Needs web-based training and instructor kit in 2020, it immediately caught the eyes of our Emergency, Preparedness and Response team at Child Care Aware® of America (CCAoA).

At the same time, we were working on a similar tool focused on empowering Child Care Resource & Referral agencies to be better prepared for emergency situations. To learn more, we connected with FEMA’s Individual and Community Preparedness Division. A partnership quickly developed with the goal of aligning the Disaster Ready Toolkit we were creating with FEMA’s resources, designed for the unique needs and services of CCR&Rs.

Who are Child Care Resource & Referral (CCR&R) Agencies?

CCR&R agencies provide many services, including child care referrals and other parenting supports, child care provider training and technical assistance and other efforts to increase the quality and availability of child care.

CCR&Rs are second responders in their communities as social service providers and are an important resource. In case of a disaster or emergency, it is important that vital CCR&R services and operations resume as quickly as possible to meet the needs of children and families in the communities they serve. CCR&Rs are accustomed to preparing child care providers for emergencies through training and technical assistance. It is equally important for CCR&Rs to invest in their own organizational preparedness.

Who is CCAoA and the Disaster Preparedness team?

Child Care Aware® of America works with a national network of over 400 CCR&R agencies and other partners to ensure that all families have access to quality, affordable child care. The organization leads projects that increase the quality and availability of child care, conducts research, and advocates for child care policies that positively impact the lives of children and families. To find your local CCR&R organization, search the CCAoA website.

CCAoA’s Emergency Preparedness, Response, and Recovery team understands that CCR&Rs are a constant presence in local communities and serve as a trusted resource for child care providers and families. With proper training, CCR&Rs can serve as resilience hubs that reduce, and possibly prevent, the suffering of people affected by disasters—especially those most vulnerable. The team works with CCR&Rs across the country, ensuring that they have the proper training, technical assistance, and resources available to serve children, child care professionals, and families through all phases of emergency management.

CCAoA believes that resilient communities must have preparation, relief, and recovery systems in place to ensure that children are safe and that families can return to work. The Disaster Ready CCR&R toolkit is a helpful resource that was developed to help CCR&Rs be better prepared to assist their communities in the event of a disaster.

How did the work on the toolkit begin? What was the vision for the toolkit?

A Disaster Ready CCR&R strives to ensure continuity of vital CCR&R services and operations, while supporting staff, child care providers, families and the community at large in case of a disaster. The work began in 2019 when CCAoA prioritized individual CCR&R agency disaster readiness as part of comprehensive readiness plan.

CCAoA received a grant targeting individual CCR&R agency disaster readiness. This was a bit of a shift, because training and technical assistance has traditionally been focused on child care providers, not the organization providing training and support to providers. Members of our EPRR team conducted an environmental scan of existing resources, focused on community-based organization readiness and conducted focus groups with CCR&Rs to learn more about their challenges and needs. This is when we found FEMA’s OPEN training.

What does the toolkit look like now?

The ultimate goal is for CCR&Rs to have a plan and to maintain an organizational focus on disaster readiness. The materials in the toolkit align with FEMA’s Organizations Preparing for Emergency Needs training, with the 10 Preparedness Actions being central to the content. The concepts from the training are tailored to CCR&Rs and their specific needs. We created a Disaster Ready CCR&R checklist and activities, a business continuity template, and a list of supporting resources to help guide CCR&Rs become more disaster ready. The web-based FEMA training is a prerequisite for the toolkit.

What are some goals for the future?

CCAoA will continue to add content to the Disaster Ready Toolkit as needs are identified. We will also use feedback from CCR&Rs who use the toolkit to guide future updates. Our goal is to ensure the preparedness of every CCR&R, and in-turn, build resilience in the communities they serve.

From left to right: CCAoA Director of Emergency Preparedness and Response Julie Looper Coats, FEMA Emergency Management Specialist Chi Zhang, and CCAoA Director of Child Care Emergency Partnerships Holly Nett.

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