Accessibility links

Reuniting Families Separated by Hurricane Katrina


Perhaps one of Hurricane Katrina's biggest tragedies is that of children separated from their families in the chaos and the rush to evacuate people. Amy Katz reports on the efforts to reunite families.

When the full impact of Hurricane Katrina became apparent, so did the need to rescue people who did not make it out before the storm. Many of them were children. No one knows just how many got separated from his or her families.

Many evacuee shelters are now home to these children of the storm, who don't know where their parents are, some so young they cannot even tell authorities their names. The goal is reuniting families. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children is coordinating the effort.

They are investigating and also using the Internet to help match the children up with their lost families, according to the organization's Nancy McBride. "We're also having people on the ground go to the shelters, take photos of the kids, put the kids on our website, and we're putting all that information together, case by case, child by child."

In Houston, Texas, where many of Katrina's evacuees were taken, police are working with the organization, says Ernie Allen, the Center's president.

"If you look in the faces of these four and five-year-olds, who have lost everything, and who don't know where their mothers and fathers are, you see a hollowness, you see a sense of desperation, or isolation."

Social services agencies, which usually keep identities private, have turned to television for help.

One social worker says the kids are being taken care of but are missing mom. "They're doing good, and they want to see their mom. They haven't seen her since Tuesday, when they were able to get on a rescue boat."

The efforts are paying off. At least 125 children have been reunited with their families.

One six-year-old girl was separated from her mother as they were leaving New Orleans. Relatives found out she was in Houston and drove there from California, to take her to Atlanta, for a reunion with her mother.

XS
SM
MD
LG