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From The CriticsReviewer: Gary B Kaniuk, Psy.D. (Cermak Health Services)
Description: This book describes the lessons learned from one of the deadliest disasters in United States history, Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath. It specifically looks at the adjustment of children and families, how the community responded to the disaster, and implications for dealing with disasters in the future.
Purpose: The editors state that the book grew out of their own work after Katrina, noting "Our experiences in Louisiana and Mississippi and, critically, our discussions with caregivers, children, educators, and practitioners led us to want to provide an outlet for empirical and conceptual Katrina work, one with an emphasis on application."
Audience: The editors hope the book will be "a useful reference for (a) professionals, scholars, and graduate students across fields, including mental health and social services (e.g., psychologists, social workers, school psychologists, counselors), particularly those providing services to children and families and helping them cope and meet their needs or those in training programs preparing professionals in disaster mental health, preparedness, emergency management, or community response postdisaster, and (b) policymakers at local, state, and national levels," and they have assembled a diverse group of contributors representing psychology, public health, sociology, education, and psychiatry. All of the editors are from the psychology department at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.
Features: The introduction discusses the ecological systems theory by Bronfenbrenner, which is the context of the book. The theory sees behavior as being influenced by intraindividual factors and environmental and sociocultural factors. Child development occurs within these multiple intersecting levels. Part I of the book's three parts looks at the adjustment of families after Hurricane Katrina, including caregiver-child relationships, parenting behavior, and family resiliency, especially as related to children's adjustment and mental health. Part II describes the specific needs of children and families following Katrina and the importance of schools in the recovery process. Part III tries to understand the lessons learned and provide recommendations for dealing with disasters in the future. The book reports the results of research studies conducted onsite in New Orleans and Mississippi and numerous tables help clarify the text. Chapter 2 reports the results of face-to-face interviews conducted in Louisiana with 68 children aged 7 to 10, which showed that almost one-third were diagnosed with a psychiatric or behavioral disorder, as opposed to 18.6% one year before Katrina. The study also indicates the important role that caregivers have in the lives of children. Later in the book, chapter 12 discusses preparing children before hurricanes strike and how to respond to them in the short-term and long-term.
Assessment: This excellent book details the research that was conducted in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and which contributed directly to clinical care. The book is easy to read and practical. Anyone involved in disaster work will find it compelling and useful.