The calm after the storm : a qualitative case study on the role of resilience and post-disaster interventions in the recovery of Head Start programs.


In 2019, for the first time in 18 years, the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) provided the Office of Head Start (OHS) with emergency funding for Head Start grant recipients impacted by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria. This funding provided Head Start programs with numerous post-disaster interventions necessary to recover from, respond to, and prepare for the next disaster. OHS encouraged grant recipients to utilize the disaster recovery funding to build more resilient facilities and to provide children, families, and staff with the tools and strategies needed to build their disaster resilience (Administration for Children and Families, 2018). Although grant recipients have received funding and implemented many of the interventions, OHS does not know how effective the interventions have been in building resilience across programs and among staff.

This qualitative descriptive case study explored the role of resilience in disaster recovery for Head Start programs impacted by the 2017 Hurricane Maria and the 2020 earthquakes in Puerto Rico. I designed this research study to determine if the interventions OHS provided helped build disaster resiliency in Head Start program staff and administrators. I used purposive sampling to select eleven participants across three sites to participate in the study. I conducted semi-structured interviews with administrators and program staff and collected disaster recovery applications and mental health action plans from the three sites. The data analysis approach included comparing data across sites, reviewing cases, and coding and interpreting the data to reveal themes.

This study showed that resilience is necessary for recovery and that acknowledging and addressing the mental health of children, families, and staff promotes resilience. The participants’ voices provided insight into the importance of supportive leadership that provides a sense of safety and community post-disaster. Overall, the OHS disaster recovery process was successful for Head Start grant recipients in Puerto Rico impacted by Hurricane Maria who participated in this study. The post-disaster interventions provided Head Start programs with everything they needed to reach the level of disaster resilience necessary to be prepared for the next disaster.