"The oil spill has traumatized children and overwhelmed their capacity to cope and articulate their feelings," experts claim.
The damage inflicted by the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill keeps on growing as it is now claiming young children among its innocent ‘victims.’ Faith-based organizations and bureaucrats are rushing to help limit the psychological damage that the disaster has wreaked on youngsters who are said to be exhibiting “behavioral changes” due to stress and anxiety, but it seems federal funds are being improperly used by Florida officials to pay for a portion of the mental ‘relief’ efforts.
Beginning this week, children in grades K-6 who have shown signs of emotional stress and anxiety due to the oil spill are being invited “Camp Beyond the Horizon” where they will be encouraged to “process their experiences and express emotions such as grief, fear and anger in a safe and supportive environment,” according to a Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) press release.
“The oil spill has traumatized children and overwhelmed their capacity to cope and articulate their feelings,” said Sam Sipes, president and CEO of Lutheran Services. “After a disaster, children may show distress through regressive behaviors – unwanted thoughts, fears, withdrawal, sleep disturbances or physical symptoms, such as headaches or stomachaches. Unresolved emotions make it difficult for some to concentrate and succeed in school.”
Driving the point home, the Tampa Bay Tribune spotlighted two young girls who are battling with emotions due to the what they perceive the disaster’s long-lasting impact on their own families.
“One girl about 5 years old was devastated when she realized she could no longer attend an annual fishing rodeo with her father – a family tradition. She has a new baby brother and was upset that he might never be able to go fishing with his father,” the Tribune reported. “Another girl, about 7 or 8, was worried because her mother had not worked as a waitress at her beachfront restaurant the past three weeks.”
Instead of parents re-affirming to their own children that their lives will go own, the damage will be repaired, their families will survive the challenges ahead, and this is not the first oil spill and it certainly will not be the last, the State of Florida has enlisted child welfare advocates from the DCF to intervene and help clear the residual mess on the home front.
“It is frustrating. We know the need is there,” Janice Thomas, circuit administrator for DCF in the Panhandle told the Tribune. “Any kind of research proves there is a mental health impact with something like this.”
DCF reportedly requested $1.7 million from BP in June to fund the grief camps for kids and has yet to see a dime. A BP spokesperson indicated to the Tribune that the company is considering the request, but had not made any final determinations.
The camps are currently being funded through private donations and monies allocated by the State of Florida received from the federally-funded Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, notes the DCF press release. Interestingly, the TANF program is limited in its responsibilities to achieving four specific goals that have nothing to do with providing grief counseling for children in wake of natural or man-caused disasters.
According to a TANF fact sheet detailing the program’s “Goals” that appears on the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services website:
States receive a block grant to design and operate their programs to accomplish the purposes of TANF.
- assisting needy families so that children can be cared for in their own homes
- reducing the dependency of needy parents by promoting job preparation, work and marriage
- preventing out-of-wedlock pregnancies
- encouraging the formation and maintenance of two-parent families.
Additionally, TANF’s “Mission” contains no mention of the program providing for the mental health of children in wake of disasters, focusing its efforts solely on assistance that “promotes work, responsibility and self-sufficiency.”
TANF is designed to help needy families achieve self-sufficiency. To carry out its mission, the TANF Bureau: 1) develops legislative, regulatory, and budgetary proposals; 2) presents operational planning objectives and initiatives related to welfare reform to the Director; 3) oversees the progress of approved activities; 4) provides leadership and coordination for welfare reform within ACF; and 5) provides leadership and linkages with other agencies on welfare reform issues, including agencies within DHHS, relevant agencies across the Federal, State, local, and Tribal governments, and non-governmental organizations at the Federal, State, and local levels.
We’re shaking the ‘magic eight ball’ here trying to determine if the State of Florida and its DCF are improperly using federal TANF money to fund the grief camps for kids and it keeps saying, “Signs point to yes.” A 2006 report from the State of Florida detailing its own requirements for residents’ eligibility in the TANF program does not contain any provisions pertaining to children and their mental health needs.