Puerto Rico Children’s Taskforce

The Children’s Taskforce (CTF) is an initiative developed by the federal government through the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) following natural disasters in order to promote active collaboration between government agencies, grassroots organizations and private entities to solve issues related to children during the recovery process, as well to develop plans to help optimize future disaster preparedness. In April of 2018, the YDI officially assumed leadership of this working group in continuing collaboration with Save the Children, HHS and FEMA.

The purpose of this collaborative network is to identify and address the needs of Puerto Rico’s children, especially in emergency situations, when it is essential to set priorities, channel resources and leverage collective and individual strengths for the welfare of children and their families.

Recently, the YDI selected Cristina Custodio as the CTF facilitator. Custodio has extensive experience as a facilitator of inter-institutional working groups, such as Fomentando Alianzas (Promoting Partnerships), a Fundación Banco Popular (Banco Popular Foundation) project. At the YDI, we know she will make great contributions to the development and strengthening of the task force, which in turn will allow the CTF to address children’s needs during the recovery and preparation processes.

Currently, the CTF’s focus is addressing children’s needs within four main areas:

  • Mental Health: performing an inventory assessment of mental health services available to children in Puerto Rico with the goal of finding duplication of efforts and gaps in this service field. It will be finalized by August 2018 and we will share it at that date.
  • Post-Emergency Referrals: developing an infographic, divided into regions (7 regions), to show where to seek services for children after an emergency situation. It will also be finalized by August 2018 and will be distributed through a regional media outreach campaign that will include newspaper and radio promotion.
  • Preparedness: consists of recommendations that can help the general public, especially families with minors, prepare for emergency events.
  • Regionalization: developing regional support groups to address the needs of children in Puerto Rico in a more detailed manner that takes into account the unique characteristics of each geographical region.

“Being a part of this team has been very productive for FEMA. We have been able to share and exchange valuable information that will support us in our interest to develop a culture of preparedness where all members of our society, but especially families with children, will be trained and will have the necessary information to prepare for the inevitable impact of future disasters,” said Lauralee Koziol, FEMA’s Human Services supervisor.

Meanwhile, Teruca Subirá, Save the Children’s Partnership Manager, highlighted the importance of creating spaces where the broad spectrum of organizations focusing on children’s needs could share their experiences and knowledge, in order to continue with the mission of bringing forth new changes in the way the world treats children and youth.

“This is one of the ways in which the YDI is ensuring that the needs of children in Puerto Rico are met, especially those of children living in poverty. Right now, we are focusing on two stages simultaneously: the recovery of some families with children, especially those who were more vulnerable before the hurricane, and the preparations needed to ensure the improvement of the systems that allow us to care for children and youth after a natural disaster,” said Amanda Rivera Flores, Executive Director of YDI.

Rivera Flores explained that the vision for this group is to create a world-class Children’s Taskforce that focuses on action and results, so that we may improve the systems that support children after a natural disaster. “We need shelters with safe spaces for boys and girls and socio-emotional support must be available to ensure that each child can process the experience positively; families with children need to know where they can get access to food and first aid, if they have any needs after the hurricane. We believe that when all agencies —both at the federal and state levels— and organizations that work with children sit together at the table, we have a unique opportunity to coordinate and collaborate,” said the YDI’s Executive Director.

If you lead an organization that offers services to children and youth in Puerto Rico and want to join the CTF, please email to Cristina Custodio at prchildrenstaskforce@gmail.com.