On Monday, President Joe Biden signed into law the Homeland Security for Children Act (H.R. 4426), which requires the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to more thoroughly factor children’s needs into its strategies.
“I am extremely proud that President Biden signed my bill into law,” said U.S. Rep. Donald Payne, Jr. (D-NJ), who introduced the legislation. “We must make the safety and well-being of children a top priority when we plan for natural and man-made disasters. Children suffer the most when these tragedies occur in communities. We must have a strategic and comprehensive plan to handle their needs before, during, and after any emergency. We have a moral obligation to protect the next generation from harm during these catastrophic events.”
When formulating plans and policies linked to natural disasters, the new law requires DHS to incorporate feedback from organizations representing the needs of children. This, according to Payne, will help factor in the loss of parents, food insecurity, homelessness, and more that can be inflicted on children due to floods, hurricanes, and other weather-related catastrophes.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will also have to identify and address the needs of children in all of its emergency preparation, protection, response, and recovery activities linked to natural and man-made disasters, such as terrorist attacks. The new law mandates the creation of a new position within FEMA – a Children’s Technical Expert – to guarantee those needs are met.
The bill had been in the legislative pipeline since last year, having been advanced by the U.S. House of Representatives in September 2021.