During a natural disaster the preparation and recovery can be challenging, and is further complicated when working with individuals and families with histories of trauma, serious mental illness, and involvement in child welfare. In natural disaster the social service professionals and their families may also be impacted. This requires agencies and service professionals to provide support for those served while dealing with personal loss and helping their families adapt and recover. This is a perspectives from the field article describing the challenges of preparing for and recovering from Hurricane Michael, which struck the Florida panhandle on October 10, 2018. These perspectives are from three social service workers reflecting on their experiences in working with individuals with serious and persistent mental illnesses, foster families and children involved in child welfare.

Key Take Away Points

  • In a natural disaster, like Hurricane Michael, preparations are important but do not adequately prepare for the actual immediate and long-term recovery for those served and the staff.
  • Following a disaster helping staff stay busy and focusing on the work can be important in their recovery.
  • Recovery from a natural disaster is a long-term process and agency leadership must support the needs of individuals and families served and recognize that impact of the disaster on the staff.
  • In recovery efforts finding ways to incorporate the community is important and helps create a sense of belonging for all.
  • Recognizing the special needs and impact of additional trauma for individuals with serious and persistent mental illness and children and families involved with child welfare is critical during the recovery period.

Author Biography

Lawrence A. Allen is the Chief Operating Officer at Central Florida Behavioral Health Network, Inc. in Tampa, Florida. He is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and a Licensed Healthcare Risk Manager with over 25 years’ experience in behavioral health. David Daniels is the Chief Operating Officer at Big Bend Community Based Care, Inc. in Tallahassee, Florida. His areas responsibilities include child welfare and safety net behavioral health services. Angela Lee is a Component Director at Life Management Center, Inc in Panama City, Florida. She supervises and residential facility for individuals with serious and persistent mental illness. Taryn Tasker Life Management Center, Inc. in Panama City, Florida. She works to recruit and retain foster families to support children involved with child welfare. Carla Gayle Wofford is a social worker for the Dependency Case Management Program at Children’s Home Society, Inc. in Panama City, Florida. She works to ensure the safety of children under the jurisdiction of the Florida State Court.


National Oceanic and Aerospace Adminstration, n.d. https://www.nhc.noaa.gov/archive/2018/al14/al142018.discus.017.shtml