“Planning for Unaccompanied Minors in Shelter Operations,” a new issue brief by NACCHO, provides local health departments (LHDs) and emergency planners with facts about the effects of disaster on minors and ideas about how to plan for their presence in shelters. Minors can quickly become separated from their parents or guardians for numerous reasons during a disaster or emergency, especially precarious because minors will have different needs than adults, and those needs will be more acute when on their own.
The brief details the emotional effects of disaster on minors: It varies by age and developmental level and can include feeling anxious, ashamed, fearful, helpless, confused, or insecure. Exacerbating these feelings are the realities of life in a shelter: unfamiliar routines, unusual eating activity, and inactivity. Minors might express these feelings through anger, aggression, and participation in risky behaviors. And, without sufficient planning, conditions in shelters and temporary housing can leave minors especially vulnerable to crime, fighting, and physical and sexual abuse.
The issue brief also provides a number situations LHDs need to consider when planning a strategy for managing unaccompanied minors in emergency situations, including:
- Medical Care
- Mental Healthcare
- Supervision and Security
- Record Keeping
- Information Sharing
- Emancipated Minors