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Effects of Disasters on Women and Children will be Focus of Essence Festival Panel Discussion

DCFS Deputy Secretary Terri Ricks will join state Sen. Regina Barrow and Dr. Shanta Proctor on the panel

BATON ROUGE, La. --Terri Ricks, Deputy Secretary of the Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services, has been invited to join state Sen. Regina Barrow and Shanta Proctor, Executive Director of the Governor's Office of Women's Policy, on a panel discussing the effects of disasters on women and children at the 2017 Essence Festival.

The panel discussion, "Women & Children: How Disasters Affect Them," will be moderated by Essence Magazine Editor-in-Chief Vanessa K. DeLuca. Barrow, who chairs the Senate Select Committee on Women and Children, will serve as host.

The panel discussion will take place Saturday, July 1, at 1:10-1:25 p.m., on the Empowerment Experience stage at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, 900 Convention Center Blvd., New Orleans. The Empowerment Experience series is free and open to the public.

Ricks, who leads DCFS recovery efforts, said natural disasters like the floods of 2016 often take a toll on a community beyond the property damage in plain sight.

"These disasters can be very stressful. Even if you weren't directly affected, you were affected because of the impacts across your community," Ricks said.

The impacts on children, in particular, can be far-reaching.

"The number of children who meet the definition of homeless under the McKinney-Vento Act - who lack a fixed, regular and adequate nighttime residence - from an event that happened a year ago is incredible," Ricks said. "And that number is just an illustration of how even something like an unnamed storm can have outsized impacts on children."

Ricks will discuss child homelessness, trauma and how our communities can prepare for future disasters with the panel.

"The Essence Festival is the largest festival of its kind in the U.S., drawing nearly 500,000 people to New Orleans each year, with millions more watching online or on TV," said DCFS Secretary Marketa Garner Walters. "This is an extraordinary opportunity to tell our story and articulate the needs of Louisiana's children and families to the world. Terri has been an incredible leader throughout our recovery efforts, and I am proud that she was asked to serve on this panel."

Other topics to be addressed include domestic violence, the impact of natural disasters on female-headed households and recovery services available.

Gov. John Bel Edwards, by executive order in June 2016, established the Emergency Operations Plan designating the Department of Children and Family Services, along with the Department of Health, Department of Education and higher education, as the primary agencies for the Recovery Support Function-3, Health and Social Services. Ricks, as Deputy Secretary of DCFS, heads the agency's recovery efforts.

Recovery work has been ongoing. In February, residents of 56 of the state's 64 parishes were in either short- or long-term recovery from natural disasters occurring over the previous 12 months. Issues identified for recovery include access to child care, student homelessness, transportation to schools, rise in unemployment insurance claims, increase in depression and substance abuse, and domestic violence.