News and Announcements
CWLA Member Agencies Affected by Katrina
CWLA Member Agencies Affected by Katrina
CWLA member agencies across the country are uniting, opening their doors to other member agencies affected by this disaster, and providing much-needed resources and services.
Our members are on the front lines, taking vulnerable children into their arms and doing their best to not only provide for their basic needs like food and shelter, but also address the wide array of social and emotional problems that manifest in the wake of a crisis.
CWLA is the largest network of child- and-family-serving agencies in the country. Through the geographic diversity of our membership and broad scope of services to children and families, CWLA and its members reach every single child that has entered, or is at risk of entering, the child protection system.
CWLA is in constant contact with its members, keeping them informed of developments. CWLA will also donate the proceeds of the Katrina Kids Fund and other hurricane-related funds to our members' ongoing efforts to address the needs of the extremely vulnerable children and families they serve. CWLA is extremely efficient: 94¢ of every dollar goes directly to hurricane-related activities.
Together, we are operating as one large community, united by the collective goal of keeping children safe from harm.
CWLA Member Agencies Operating in the Stricken Areas
Jewish Children's Regional Service
Post-Katrina Update: CWLA is still attempting to contact this agency.
New Orleans, LA
Post-Katrina Update: They are unsure of the status of their facility and are working to make sure their staff and the children and families they serve have the supports they need.
Louisiana Association of Child Care Agencies
Louisiana Department of Social Services
Baton Rouge, LA
Post-Katrina Update: DSS workers are manning emergency shelters and working overtime supporting evacuees and reuniting children with parents and caregivers. They have reunited more than 50 children and families who had been separated during the evacuation. As September 13, they have only had to place two children in foster care. Sadly, they are aware a number of children are in shelters in other states, separated from their families. They are working with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children to reunite them as quickly as possible. Communications are still minimal, and there are many DSS staff and some foster parents whose whereabouts are unknown.
Raintree Children's Services
New Orleans, LA
Post-Katrina Update: Successfully located a house and office space they can rent in Nachitoches, Louisiana, allowing them to keep the nine girls in their group home program together. All of their foster families and children in foster care have been located and are safe. Most of the foster homes were not flooded, but families are dealing with the loss of jobs and community. Agency staff is working to support these families to keep these placements intact during this stressful time.
Mississippi Children's Home Society
Post-Katrina Update: They are having difficulty locating their foster children who were evacuated from the Gulf Coast region, but are working with CWLA member agencies to communicate with them. Among the many facilities operated by this agency:
Harrison County Campus. The facility has been looted and is badly damaged.
Hattiesburg Shelter. The facility, which still houses children and families, is badly damaged and without power.
Vicksburg. Fully operational with no damage.
Girls' Therapeutic Group Home, Jackson. No power.
CARES Psychiatric Residential Treatment Home. Operating with minimal disruption.
All of the children are understandably frightened and upset because they have not been able to contact family members. The staff is working around the clock to deal with their anxiety and stress. Most of the staff have sustained damage to their homes and apartments, have been without power, and are having difficulty finding gas to be able to drive to work.
We expect the need for care for children and youth will dramatically increase in the coming weeks. Thousands of people have been evacuated from the coast to Jackson, Mississippi, and as time passes their needs will become more critical. Most of these people have lost their homes, their jobs, and their possessions. This will put tremendous pressure on the child welfare and mental health systems, which are already fragile and underfunded.
We are extremely grateful for the concern expressed by CWLA and its member agencies and will keep you informed as we continue to provide the best care possible under these circumstances for our children and families.
Christopher Cherney, Director, Mississippi Children's Home Society
Susan Cherney, Executive Director, Southern Christian Services for Children and Families
Mississippi Department of Human Services, Division of Family Services
Post-Katrina Update: Contacting staff and foster parents remains a primary focus. Cell phone service in some parts of the coast has come back, but one area still has no form of communication. The department has heard from its foster parents and most of their staff, and all are safe. They have only placed one child in foster care. To their credit, when staff in one of the hardest-hit counties reported for work, only to find their building being used by one of the federal relief agencies, the staff called in to the state office and ended up going to work in shelters.
Saint Francis Academy
Pascagoula and Picayune, MS
Post-Katrina Update: The motto of St. Francis Academy is "Lives Change Here." Little did staff know how much their organization, their own lives, and the lives of the children they serve would change because of Hurricane Katrina. As an organization focusing on restoring wholeness to children who have experienced abuse, neglect, chemical dependency, gang affiliation, conduct disorders, and other problems, St. Francis Academy was as well-equipped as an organization could be when three of its Mississippi programs fell victim to Hurricane Katrina.
That's probably part of what enabled them to implement Operation Katrina Safe Haven, a massive effort to evacuate three programs and their participants from Pascagoula and Picayune, Mississippi, to sites in Salina and Halstead, Kansas, near other St. Francis Academy programs.
According to Rev, Edward Fellhauer, Dean and President of St. Francis Ministries to Children and Families, "Relocating three programs so quickly, with almost no warning, and with no clear picture about the future in terms of a timeline and available assistance, has been accomplished as much by faith as anything else."
After a trip that took them across five states, those who suffered the storm in Picayune, Mississippi--the teenage boys from the St. Michael's program, and adult clients with disabilities from the Bridgeway program, as well as any staff who wished to come-- arrived safely in Kansas. The St. Michael's group is being housed at St. Francis Academy's Salinas West facility; Bridgeway clients are living in apartments in a complex generously loaned by the citizens of Halstead, Kansas. Younger children who were evacuated from the St. Francis Academy program in Pascagoula, Mississippi, first traveled to Montgomery, Alabama, with several of their staff, and are also settling in at the Salina West facility in Kansas.
St. Francis Academy was able to provide appropriate housing and a warm welcome through the generosity of its Kansas communities. Still, the organization has incurred significant expense in relocating the three programs to Kansas and will need to make many repairs to the three Mississippi facilities in order to make a return of the programs possible. Meals alone are costing the Kansas facility an additional $500-$600 per week. They will also need funds to continue providing for the spiritual, emotional, mental, and physical needs of these members of the St. Francis family.
In addition, Mississippi staff members are begging to keep their jobs to preserve their own livelihoods. They are now in a rotation, spending three weeks in Kansas and one week in Mississippi with their own families trying to clean up after the devastation. This arrangement is not only good for the staff--who feel the security of knowing they have work--but also for the kids, who feel some sense of security and continuity in the midst of all the loss. But travel costs to support this rotation add up quickly.
Most of the boys who were evacuated had never been outside of Mississippi. They have been scared by the change in scenery after their trek across five states. The big sky, flat land, and big mosquitoes are all new to these kids. The cooks in Kansas are trying to master cooking grits and collard greens, among other southern dishes, to keep as much normalcy and familiarity as possible. The local women's prison sent afghans for the youth, and those prisoners who are from the South have worked to put together a southern cookbook for the St. Francis Academy.
Southern Christian Services for Children and Families
Post-Katrina Update: All of their staff and children are safe. Two staff members have lost their homes and belongings. The therapeutic group home for girls in Columbia was without power, water, and phone services for five days, but the main office was able to shuttle supplies to them once the roads were passable. A facility in Jacskson was without power for four days. Children slept on the floor of the facilities' offices to get some relief from the heat. Minimal damage to other facilities was incurred, but they are still trying to locate a number of their older teens in foster care who were living independently on the Gulf Coast. Staff have already driven to different towns to pick up teens in need of shelter. They are expecting a dramatic increase in the number of children and families needing their assistance, as thousands of people who were evacuated from the coast have arrived and are still arriving in Jackson--many of them have lost their homes, their jobs, and their possessions.
CWLA Members Responding to the Needs of Other CWLA Member Agencies
Acadiana Youth Inc.
Post-Katrina Update: They are located outside of the affected region and are offering support and assistance to other member agencies that did not fare as well.
Our members in Texas are working in partnership with the public agency and the state association to respond to the needs of children coming into the state. There are growing concerns about children who are arriving unaccompanied by adults. Fortunately, some 2,400 available beds have been identified, but the challenges to reconnect these children to family and to address their emotional and health needs are significant.
Lena Pope Home
Ft. Worth, TX
Post-Katrina Update: Prepared to set up mobile homes and has freed several cottages on its campus to accommodate foster and adoptive families and their children. Coordinating a list of available resources and working with a number of other agencies to make resources available. Offering crisis intervention services to the Red Cross by providing mental health services to the evacuees. One half of its workforce has been devoted to reuniting families and providing evacuees who have lost everything with access to computers so they may update their resumes and begin seeking employment.
One heart-warming story from this agency is that of a Louisiana resident who was separated from her family during the evacuation. Some of her family is in Ft. Worth, and the rest are in Houston. The agency flew the woman's entire family to Ft. Worth so they could be reunited. They have also found a car for her to use so she can pursue employment opportunities.
All Church Home for Children
Ft. Worth, TX
Post-Katrina Update: They have opened their auditorium as a shelter for evacuees, providing them with food, clothing, and other necessary items. Their Families Together Program has four available spots for children and their parents, 12 beds for 4- to 12-year olds, and 2 beds for teen boys.
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