Children of Katrina

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    • 00:00

      [MUSIC PLAYING][Children of Katrina]

    • 00:09

      SPEAKER 1: The project I just completedwith Professor Lori Peake at Colorado Stateis a project that took 10 years to finish,on children who were in Hurricane Katrina-- whichhit in 2005.And we followed children for seven years, from 2005 to 2012.And the book came out last year, in timefor the 10th anniversary.

    • 00:31

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: So Children of Katrina, our book,examines hundreds of children but really tellsthe story of seven focal children who best representthe patterns that we saw in the hundreds of childrenthat we studied.So we wanted to find out certain things-- knowing

    • 00:52

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: that we did not know much about children in disaster,we wanted to ask a lot of questionsand we wanted to sort of start at the beginning.So we wanted to find out what children's experiences werein the disaster-- everything that happened to them before,during, and after.We wanted to find out what they needed and whoor what was able to provide that for them,

    • 01:13

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: and we wanted to know what they were able to do for themselvesor others, and we wanted to know how things played outduring the long-term.So the catastrophe and the displacementwas a very long period of time, so we wanted to really lookat the long term.So those were our main goals.

    • 01:33

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: We used a variety of qualitative methods.We spent hundreds of hours observingchildren in their schools, and their families,and on playgrounds, and laundromats, and reliefcenters, and mass shelters.And the idea was we wanted to go where children were,so we wanted to go to them where they lived and played

    • 01:55

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: instead of having them come to usand do some kind of interview.So we spent a lot of time with the children and their familiesand we interviewed-- both formallyand informally-- the children, their siblings, their parents,their aunts and uncles, their grandparents, their teachers,neighbors, social workers at the school, peoplewho worked as volunteers-- say, the Red

    • 02:17

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: Cross at mass shelters-- trying to completethis picture of what their lives were like.And we wanted to both hear adultsbut we also really wanted to hear the voices of children.And past research had found that sometimes childrendon't tell adults everything and we

    • 02:39

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: wanted to make sure that we were attentive to both groupsand really listened.We tried a couple innovative things-- we spent a lot of timewith kids talking, so we used things like play-doh--so we played with a lot of play-doh whiletalking to kids-- and we did a lot of drawings.So they would draw a picture, we might ask a prompt-- so,

    • 02:60

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: what did Katrina look like?We might ask, what was something good that came out of Katrina?And they would draw pictures and thenthey would talk about what they were drawingand explain it to us.And that really was able to give usa lot of information that would nothave come from just talking.We tried one method that I really loved,

    • 03:20

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: which was these small laminated cards thathad images of various aspects of their life.So what we tried to do was look at all spheres of a child'slife-- so their family, their housing and neighborhood,their health, their peers and friends, their schooling--and look at all those spheres.And so we had images that represented those spheres

    • 03:43

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: on each of the cards.And they were small laminated colorful cards.And we handed them to the childrenand they would decide how to use the cards.So usually, they would pick one to startwith-- some of them liked to lay them out on the ground in frontof us or some of them liked to hold them like they wereplaying cards-- but they got to decide what

    • 04:03

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: to do with those cards, they got to hold them,they got to decide the pace of the conversation.So if they were done talking about their church,they put that down and say, I wantto talk about my little league team.And they would control the pace and the subjects.And if they didn't want to talk about one,they could just put it down and move onto the next one.And I really liked that because I like just turning somethingover to them that then was in their control

    • 04:26

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: and they got to hold it, they gotto determine the pace, and really, the topics.And also, the order in which they talked about them,which was great.So we tried a variety of methods.I think the greatest strength of the methodsthat we chose was that we were able to build some trust

    • 04:49

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: and rapport over time with these families,so that when we came back into town, they knew us.We could pick up where we left off.We were welcomed into their homes.And so the longitudinal nature of it was really importantand I think that was a really crucial part.And I think we also realized that if we

    • 05:11

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: had stopped after a year or two, our findings mighthave been different.So it really ended up playing a role in what we discovered.Our main findings are that recovery takes a long time,and that displacement is a very difficult process,and that there are patterns.

    • 05:31

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: So their post-disaster lives, the childrenfollowed trajectories-- that we callthem-- and children did not follow the same trajectories.And that there were reasons why some children foundequilibrium-- so some stability--some children declined-- great, huge decline-- and some,

    • 05:51

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: we called this fluctuating trajectory,in that they didn't decline completelybut they did not find this place of stability or equilibrium.So these three patterns emerged.And I think if we had stopped our project earlier,we wouldn't have seen how these played out.

    • 06:14

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: And we really didn't see the patterns and what was happeningexactly for a number of years.And if we had stopped after a year, someone who was in a dipmight have actually picked up in year twobecause they moved to a new place and their mom got a joband they got in a pretty good school.And so then things changed, but then

    • 06:36

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: after that, they maybe lost their FEMA trailer,became homeless, and then they dipped again,and so then their pattern was emerging.So I think that was very important.I should point out, with the trajectories,all of the children had a decline in the beginning--everybody had a dip because it was so incredibly

    • 06:57

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: disruptive to their lives.So we were focused on children in New Orleans,and so everybody had some disruption to their life--whether it was separation from family and friends,or the loss of a home, or just being out of regular schooland not in their neighborhood.But the duration and the depth of that declinereally varied by different groups of children.

    • 07:20

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: And in general what we found, the most vulnerable groupwas the declining group.And they were the ones who were most vulnerablebefore the storm.So that wasn't a surprise but it wasvery important to document why.So what was it about their lives beforehand--

    • 07:41

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: that vulnerability.What happens?And could there have been things along the way that could havelessened their vulnerability?And we described that as cumulative vulnerability--these children who already had perhapslived in a dangerous neighborhood, maybea parent struggled with unemployment, alreadyattended a school that was really struggling

    • 08:03

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: and they were struggling in it.So these things just kept accumulating-- thenbeing displaced from New Orleans, maybe displacedfrom a social network-- those things kept building.Now, the interesting thing was therewere many cases of individual resilience with those kidswho declined.

    • 08:24

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: And we saw, if the psychologists sort ofhave a list of some things that we might be considered traitsof resilience, these children reallyhad them-- they often had positive attitudes,they were hardworking, they had a sense of humor,they had, maybe, an outlook of self-efficacy.

    • 08:50

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: But what we found, without those necessary resourcesand structural support, they weren'table to find equilibrium-- that they did indeed decline.Because without housing, it didn't matter.So while individual resilience was incredibly important,we found that these structural disadvantages reallydetermined which trajectory the kids would find.

    • 09:13

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: What we found for the kids who found equilibrium-- and again,in some ways, really not a surprise--was that their family had resources.They had cultural capital, they had social capital,they had people to stay with when they evacuated,but they also-- and I think this wasvery important-- is because they wereable to leave before the storm hit,

    • 09:36

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: they also did not have as much exposureto the trauma of the event-- to the intensity of the event.So leaving beforehand really does make a difference.And then all the resources and all the forms of capitalthat are sometimes largely invisiblebut are very, very powerful work to get

    • 09:58

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: those kids to find equilibrium.But I should say, there were a few childrenwho were able to find equilibrium, who surprised us.Who, in many ways, were fairly vulnerable before the disasterand with a combination of a lot of things lining up just right,

    • 10:22

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: they were able to find equilibrium.And it's those things that we reallyhave to figure out how we can line all of that up.So it's really having some advocatewho's tied to institutional resources thatworks in concert with a pretty competent parent,with a child that is able to be their own self advocate.

    • 10:43

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: And with a series of things-- in termsof resources, in terms of housing,and employment, and school-- so if everything lines up,indeed, equilibrium can be achieved.But so only a few children from very vulnerable positionsearlier found that.And then our last group of children

    • 11:03

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: who fluctuated, they were very vulnerable,but they did not fall as greatly as those in the decliningtrajectory.Because usually, they had someonewho was an anchor-- so perhaps a grandparent-- someone who

    • 11:24

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: kept them from falling through the cracksall the way or some access to resources.And what's interesting about these children isthat they might be doing well in one sphere of their life--so maybe they're in a school that, by objective measures,was better than the school they had been in New Orleans.

    • 11:44

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: And so one little boy in our study,for example, his mother-- they movedand they went to Baton Rouge, and she got a job,and they were able to find housing,and she was actually thrilled to be out of New Orleans,and he was in a better school, but his behavior was awfuland he was getting in lots and lots of fights.

    • 12:07

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: So while all those spheres of his lifeseemed to be good-- on the upswing--he was not with his closest friendsand he was not with his father or his grandparents, whohad always been part of his daily life.And he couldn't cope with that.And so having those spheres not doing well,

    • 12:27

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: he was not able to achieve equilibrium.He was never quite steady.He didn't find that stability.So those are the three main trajectories.In some ways, our findings challengesome myths about disasters.One is that disasters affect everyone equally,

    • 12:51

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: and we saw very clearly that they didn't.One is the children are resilient-- we heard thisfrom numerous people, from scholars, parents, neighbors,who would say, oh, you're studying children?Children are so resilient.They'll be fine, they bounce right back.So we felt that surrounding this with this sort of myth

    • 13:12

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: of children as these resilient rubber ballsthat no matter what-- no matter what happens-- theywill bounce right back.And they didn't necessarily without the necessary support.And it was pretty clear that parents needed a lot of supportin order to give the support they need to their children.

    • 13:32

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: So that was also a part of it.I think the myth comes from that children do display someof these traits-- they are these pretty-- often--strong and competent social actors,and they are figuring out what they need,

    • 13:53

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: and they have certain knowledge and certain ways of being.And I watch these children who-- their parents describedthat one little boy-- very young-- heknew his mother was in distress--and she was pregnant.So he would sing to her belly every night for the baby

    • 14:16

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: but also to soothe his mom.And she said it was the thing that kept her going.So this boy had figured out-- at a very young age-- somethingthat he could do-- that he didn'thave a lot of things he could do-- but somethinghe could do to help his mother.So on the one hand, that's there,but I think maybe-- I don't know.

    • 14:36

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: Maybe it's hard to think about the factthat children would suffer in disastersand that they would not do well and that we could actuallylose some of them and that the outcomes could be reallynegative-- especially if we don'thave the resources available to help them.So maybe there's something behind that,

    • 14:57

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: that we want to believe that they canbe resilient in all aspects.It worries me a little to frame things around resilience,in that I think it moves the conversationto the individual level as opposedto keeping it on this level where we lookat, well, what are the kinds of thingswe have in place on a community or societal

    • 15:21

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: level that are here to protect and help children recover?In Hurricane Katrina, a lot of people--through the work of scholars, but alsononprofits-- documented what happened to children.And it became pretty clear to people

    • 15:42

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: that children did not fare well in Katrina.And it started at a much larger conversation among academics,people in the federal government,people who work for organizationslike Save the Children, saying, well, we haveto do something differently.We have to do something before disaster hits

    • 16:04

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: so that this doesn't happen again because we reallyfailed children.And so an example of policy of thatis that after Katrina, Congress and former President Bushformed a national commission on children in disasters.And this group of people put their heads togetherand came up with a huge list of recommendations and said,

    • 16:27

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: well, this is what we need to do and thisis what we're not doing well-- wedon't train our educators well, wedon't have these kinds of things in place,we're not prepared at mass shelters,we don't have backup plans for children with disabilities,we're not prepared.So they came up with a long list.At the 10 year mark, we realized, after Katrina, we

    • 16:49

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: had not met-- we had not realized those recommendations.So I think a lot of people said, OK, well it was the right startand we did accomplish some of them but 3/4 have not been met.And so there's sort of a renewed effort,say, OK, we've got the ball rolling,let's keep working on this long list of recommendations

    • 17:11

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: and see what we can put into place.I recently met the commissioner on children and familyfrom New Jersey, and she was telling mehow much she was able to learn from the commissionerfor children and families from Louisiana.And that what she learned from what didn't go wellmeant the children in New Jersey fared so much

    • 17:34

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: better after Sandy and they had so many more things in place.They had systems so that they didn't lose paperworkfor foster children, and that theyweren't hundreds of foster children placeswhere no one knew where they were.So they just had things in place.They also really started thinkingthrough that teenagers who have all sortsof emotional disabilities who are maybe live in a facility

    • 17:58

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: or a home that has the caregivers they needand the medicine they need, maybe those young peopleshouldn't evacuate to mass shelters.Maybe we need to prioritize and have generatorsin those buildings because it is soimportant for their well-being and the well-beingof other people at the shelters.And so that was really helpful to me

    • 18:18

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: that she was able to connect-- that therewas that communication-- and thentake those things and change policies in New Jersey.And one of the things that Lori Peake and I foundwas the importance of children going to schooland not losing time in school.That time you miss in school, you don't get back-- it's gone.

    • 18:40

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: The child is growing up and third grade is gone.And lots of children had missed a year or two years of school.So we had really said, these children have to be in school,they have to be in that routine, and theyhave to be in school even if they'reliving in a mass shelter.And that was something that New Jersey did.And they made sure that no matter

    • 19:00

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: where those children were, that every effortwas made so that they continued their education.[How do you apply your research in discussions with students?]So I do talk with my students a lot about my research.And over the last 10 years, I have to say,I've had many conversations about it.Because I'll come back from a research trip and I'll

    • 19:21

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: tell them what I found.And we talk a lot about the vulnerability of children.So I think there are a couple-- I mean, some is very specific.So I asked them to think, well, howcould we translate this research into practice?Or how can we explain the exceptions to the patterns?Because sometimes the patterns are really interesting,but sometimes there's these real nuggetsof knowledge in the exceptions.

    • 19:42

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: So why did some of these childrenend up on this trajectory when wewouldn't have predicted that?So I might ask them to do that.And so I might ask them to learn somethingabout-- I often talk to them about methodology, say,or ethics of research.So there's all these different questions that I can ask them.So I might say, do you think this was ethical?So the question of, what if the family you go to visit

    • 20:07

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: does not have any food?What would be an ethical responseof a researcher in that case?Would it be ethical to buy them groceries?Would it be ethical to take them outto eat even if you don't take everybody in your studyout to eat?So some scholars might frown on that-- posethat to them as an ethical issue.

    • 20:27

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: I might ask them to take Children of Katrinaand use it as sort of a case studyto talk about larger issues of, maybe, inequality,or larger issues around childhood.So I might ask them to place themselves in the situation.So one thing, children in New Orleans, many of those familiesdid not know anyone outside of New Orleans--

    • 20:48

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: so while their networks might havebeen very tight and useful and valuable in the city,many of those people didn't know anyone outside of the city.So I would have asked them to imagine their hometown--if everybody they knew and in the whole world livedin that town and then that entire town was displaced,what, then, would be their trajectory?

    • 21:08

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: And that's very useful because mostof them-- from their backgrounds--they have very strong social networks that are nationaland they have many places they could go.And so that would be a really unknown context for them.So I might have them apply thingsthat we're learning-- either about methods or theories--

    • 21:31

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: to Children of Katrina.I do a section in my Sociology of Childhood class on gender.Sometimes we talk a little bit about whatissues of gender that we found in our research and have themsort of pull out what they saw as gendered experiences

    • 21:53

      SPEAKER 1 [continued]: from the narratives.[MUSIC PLAYING]

Children of Katrina

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Abstract

Dr. Alice Fothergill discusses her longitudinal research on the children who survived Hurricane Katrina. She has found that how well children recover from the disaster can be linked to how vulnerable they were before it happened.

SAGE Video Cases
Children of Katrina

Dr. Alice Fothergill discusses her longitudinal research on the children who survived Hurricane Katrina. She has found that how well children recover from the disaster can be linked to how vulnerable they were before it happened.

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