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Sarah DeYoung - University of Delaware. Newark, DE, US

Sarah DeYoung

Associate Professor, Sociology & Criminal Justice | University of Delaware


Prof. DeYoung's expertise is in maternal and child health in crisis and disaster settings, with a focus on infant feeding in emergencies.




Sarah DeYoung Publication




Pets in Disasters  | Sarah DeYoung | TEDxUniversityofDelaware




Sarah DeYoung is an assistant professor of sociology and criminal justice at the University of Delaware and core faculty in UD's Disaster Research Center. Before coming to UD, she was an assistant professor in the University of Georgia's Institute for Disaster Management and Health Policy & Management. Her main areas of research are Infant and young child feeding in emergencies, community-based disaster mitigation (especially seismic mitigation), disaster policy, wildfire evacuations, pets in evacuations and general behavioral aspects of hurricane evacuations. She is an advocate for safe infant feeding in disaster and conflict settings and works as a volunteer for safelyfed.org.

Industry Expertise (1)

Environmental Services

Areas of Expertise (6)

Evacuation Decision-making

Companion Animals in Disasters

Maternal & Infant Health in Disasters

Refugee & Immigrant Well-being

Psychological Sense of Community

Weather Warnings and Risk Communication

Media Appearances (10)

Lingering questions as Maui wildfire response faces criticism

ABC News  online


Sarah DeYoung, a core faculty member in the University of Delaware's Disaster Research Center, told ABC News wildfires are especially dangerous because they can be so fast-moving. "I've deployed for many different kinds of disasters -- hurricanes, lava flows, wildfires, tornadoes, earthquakes -- and wildfires, in my opinion from everything I've seen when I deploy, are so dangerous because they are so fast-moving and they can be so catastrophic," she said.

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Could sirens have made a difference against the Maui fires? Experts say it's unclear

NPR/WHYY  online


"That's the limitation of these sirens, they don't tell you exactly what to do," said Sarah DeYoung, a professor at the University of Delaware who studies disaster preparedness.

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University of Delaware Disaster Research Center gets $16.5 million to study equity in disaster recovery

NPR/WHYY  online


“Equity is a major focus of this grant,” said Sarah DeYoung, a core DRC faculty member and associate professor of sociology and criminal justice at the University of Delaware.

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Pushed by lawmakers and the formula shortage, FEMA boosts efforts to support breastfeeding families during disasters



Without proper support in place for nursing parents, disasters have been shown to change how people feed their infants. Sarah DeYoung, an assistant professor at the University of Delaware and disaster researcher, studied the effects of mass evacuations on infant feeding during the 2016 Fort McMurray wildfire in Canada and found that there was a decline in breastfeeding and increase in formula feeding after the disaster.

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As climate change worsens hurricane season in Louisiana, doulas are ensuring parents can safely feed their babies

19th News  online


The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has a series of guidelines it follows to prepare and respond to disasters including one detailing “mass care,” or the deployment of shelter and food in times of emergency or disaster. Sarah DeYoung, an assistant professor at the University of Delaware and disaster researcher, notes there are hardly any references to infant feeding needs. There is more information in emergency planning documents on preparing for companion animals rather than infants or babies, she said.

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Anti-Asian violence is a catastrophic threat to society | Opinion

The News Journal  online


The violent killing of eight people, including six Asian women, in Atlanta on March 17 fomented nation-wide mourning and despair amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. There has been a spike of racist attacks against Asian Americans since last spring. According to the national coalition Stop Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders Hate, hate crimes reduced by 7% in America’s 16 largest cities during the past year, but such crimes targeting Asian Americans rose by nearly 150%. Former President Donald Trump’s racist rhetoric toward Asians, calling the coronavirus the “China virus” and “Kung Flu,” has fueled the most recent wave of attacks on Asian Americans.

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US awards huge shelter contracts amid child migrant increase

Associated Press  online


Sarah DeYoung, a University of Delaware professor who studies evacuation shelters, worries many of the sites have a “very institutional setting feel” that is not optimal for children. “Just because those were selected in the past doesn’t mean they are doing it well in terms of children’s well-being,” DeYoung said. “It is critical that there would still be an outside assessment ... including public health experts and people who have pediatric expertise.”

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Natural Disasters Won’t Stop Just Because There’s a Pandemic: How We Can Be Prepared



“Conventional hurricane evacuation shelters — such as a convention center — are high-risk locations for spreading COVID-19 because these shelters typically have hundreds and sometimes thousands of people,” said Sarah E. DeYoung, PhD, an assistant professor in sociology and criminal justice at the University of Delaware.

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What Do We Make of Anti-Vaxxers In the Time of Coronavirus?

Fatherly  online


Furthermore, something as widespread as COVID-19 is hard to wrap the mind around. “In pandemics, if you don’t know someone directly impacted, it might be hard to visualize the impacts, and therefore the threat seems less real,” says Sarah E. DeYoung, Ph.D., an assistant professor of sociology and criminal justice at the University of Delaware who has studied vaccine resistance. “The problem with COVID-19, measles and other outbreaks is that they are like a ‘blue skies warning’ during hurricane season: It’s more difficult to convince beachgoers to evacuate three days before the landfall of a major hurricane because everything seems fine.”

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Hurricane Katrina inspired a national pet evacuation policy. The plan could save human lives, too.



In the massive Katrina evacuation, both out of New Orleans to avoid the floodwaters and then out of the state entirely, “a lot of people had top-down directives to not allow people to take dogs and cats with them, and bringing cats and dogs to sheltering spaces was not thought of. That caused a lot of distress and there was a huge outcry,” Sarah DeYoung, a professor at the University of Delaware who studies evacuation decision-making, said.

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Articles (5)

Maternal and infant health in disasters: Texas’s high-risk landscape

Women's Health

2022 Disasters are events in which “widespread disruption and damage to a community exceeds its ability to cope and overwhelms its resources.” The people of Texas have experienced more than disruptions—they know that disasters can impact their families and communities. Disasters can also cause physical trauma for pregnant people and infants and are associated with other complications in pregnancy and birth.

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Maternal stress and social support during Hurricane Florence

Health Care for Women International

2022 In theoretical research on disaster vulnerability, access to resources is critical for optimal outcomes. Studying the impact of a hurricane on maternal stress can expand theories of disaster vulnerability. This is a cross-sectional mixed-methods prospective study of maternal stress during Hurricane Florence in the United States. Results from chi-squares compared the proportion of respondents who reported having support for a financial emergency were significant, specifically that higher income respondents indicated the ability to rely on someone in case of an emergency. A regression analysis indicated that social support was significant and negatively related to stress as a dependent variable, while evacuation status and pregnancy status were not significant predictors of stress. Five themes emerged from the overall qualitative data: concerns about infant feeding, evacuation logistics, general stress, family roles, and 'other' issues.

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Exploratory study: the COVID-19 pandemic and community-based animal organisations and households in the USA

Australian Journal of Emergency Management

2021 The COVID-19 pandemic has changed many aspects of human systems. Gaps in community services for people with companion animals can prevent people from seeking care during a pandemic or create other issues. This paper describes exploratory research to identify some key challenges and successes for animal services providers and for households with companion animals. Using data from 19 USA states were gathered using an online survey and respondents were from 13 animal services organisations and 90 households. Themes were identified based on organisational-level challenges or successes, as well as themes at the household level. These findings may be useful for emergency managers and planners who design outreach and support services for people with companion animals, for example, planning for low-cost animal boarding services for people hospitalised or unable to care for their animal.

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The role of homelessness community based organizations during COVID‐19

Journal of Community Psychology

2022 People experiencing homelessness are vulnerable to disasters and hazards and are at risk for contracting COVID‐19. In this study, we gathered data from 10 community‐based organizations (CBO's) in the United States that work to provide services for people experiencing homelessness. The combined CBO's span across rural, urban, and a mixture of both settings. We identified three needs that the CBO's indicated to be urgent: (1) the increased need for basic services among guests/clients, (2) new organizational challenges for the CBO's, and (3) issues related to emergency management and disasters. Among these urgent needs, respondents also indicated the need for emotional support for staff and volunteers experiencing burnout during the COVID‐19 response. They also expressed some unique aspects of new care delivery systems, such as clients' willingness to engage in rehabilitation programs because of noncongregate sheltering options corresponding with those support services.

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Vulnerable Groups During Crisis

Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Politics, Encyclopedia of Crisis Analysis

2021 During crisis events such as humanitarian conflicts, population displacement, natural disasters, and others, some people are more vulnerable to long-term physical, psychological, and overall adverse outcomes. Aspects of context that affect vulnerability include: (a) the nature of the hazard or conflict event; (b) the geographic location and structural surroundings; and (c) involvement of key groups during crisis. The nature of the event includes barriers for access to well-being in high-income and low-income contexts, the speed of onset of the hazard, the scope and type of hazard (localized or catastrophic, natural or technological, and other factors). Geographic location and structural surroundings include factors such as isolation caused by an island context, structural mitigation (such as earthquake-resistant construction), pollution and environmental exposure, and implementation of land use planning or sustainable farming. Finally, with regard to involvement of key groups in crisis, it is important to consider ways in which group coordination, logistics, cultural competency, public policy, social movements, and other mechanisms can exacerbate or improve conditions for vulnerable groups.

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Research Grants (5)

NSF Large-Scale CoPe: Coastal Hazards, Equity, Economic prosperity, and Resilience (CHEER)

National Science Foundation $16,240,129

2022 - 2027

Infant feeding in emergencies: measuring changes during natural hazards in the United States

University of Delaware: UDRF $34,999

2021 - Present

Infant feeding in emergencies: measuring changes during natural hazards in the United States

University of Delaware: GUR $15,000

2020 - 2021

NSF HDBE CUEBIQ: Collaborative Research: Leveraging massive smartphone location data to improve understanding and prediction of behavior in hurricanes

National Science Foundation 

2020 - 2023

Solidarity and Storytelling: Debris and Visual Expressions of Collective Community After the 2019 10 *denotes products at Assistant Professor rank Lee County (Alabama) Tornado

University of Colorado, Boulder Natural Hazard Center $1,925


Accomplishments (2)

Distinguished Book Award, Animals and Society Section of the American Sociological Association (professional)


Distinguished Book Award from the Animals and Society Section of the American Sociological Association, for All Creatures Safe & Sound (DeYoung & Farmer, 2021)


Education (3)

North Carolina State University: PhD, Applied Social and Community Psychology 2014

Saint Joseph’s University: MS, Experimental Psychology 2009

North Carolina State University: BA, Psychology 2005

Languages (1)

  • English

Event Appearances (5)

"Evacuation, Sheltering, & Companion Animals"

(2022) Regional Mass Care Conference  King County, Washington (multi-county meeting)

"Maternal & Infant Justice in Disasters"

(2022) Feminist Approaches to Justice Panel: Women, Disasters and Climate Change: The Research Speaks  Online

“Environmental Justice for Equitable Birth Outcomes: Disasters, Displacement and Human Services”

(2022) 47th Annual Natural Hazards Workshop  Online

"Systematic Social Media Recruitment for Disaster Research"

(2022) Researcher's Meeting, Annual Natural Hazards Workshop  Online

"Maternal and Infant Vaccine Protection in the age of COVID-19"

(2022) Disaster Preparedness, Response, Innovation, Mitigation, & Recovery Conference  University of North Texas