What Is The Cook Children's Fostering Health Program?
The new parents take their child to Cook Children’s for her first well-child visit.
The parents don’t know the child’s social security number or even date a birth, but no one thinks twice because this is so normal to them.
This is part of the Cook Children’s Fostering Health program.
“Limited access to medical care is common among children entering the foster care system,” said Sharon Johnson, a nurse practitioner in the Fostering Health Program. “The goal of the Fostering Health program is to provide medical care using a trauma informed lens. We understand that removals are often due to a combination of trauma experiences and that even a visit to the doctor is unusual. Children in foster care are a very unique patient population that require unique care.”
The team follows the American Academy of Pediatrics’ health care recommendations to provide a health screening within three business days and a well-child checkup within 30 days of removal. During these visits, the team will assess behavioral, developmental and chronic health care needs. The staff also will partner with case managers to help coordinate care with required specialists and act as a continued resource for the children and biological parents.”
On their very first date, they talked about adoption.
As Christians, the young couple felt their faith compelled them to take care of the orphaned, those who didn’t have a home or were less fortunate.
Time moved on and the couple married and they adopted their first child.
While their calling was to help children, they knew they could not afford another adoption.
“We looked into becoming foster parents,” “Janet” said. “There’s such a need and so many kids are in the foster care program. We both knew plenty of people aren’t called for it. We were.”
The couple have now been foster parents to three children. Their latest foster child is the first to have been seen by the Fostering Health program at Cook Children’s.
Raising foster children brings a new set of challenges, both logistically and emotionally. They have to:
- Be vetted legally through CPS and the foster care system.
- Be CPR and first-aid trained.
- Go through background checks and be finger printed.
- Make sure anyone who would baby sit or watch their children, also go through a similar process.
The husband and wife say they have seen children come out of very sad situations, where both the birth parents and sometimes even grandparents have a history with CPS. The children are often removed from the birth parents’ homes.
One or both of the birth parents sometimes are battling criminal charges, mental health issues or drug problems.
And then there’s always a chance, the birth family could get their life straightened out the child returns to them and leaves the foster parents.
The couple are currently fostering a daughter a little under a year old after the child’s mother was found to be unfit to care for her child because of psychiatric health care issues as well as the fact that she was homeless.
The child was brought to Cook Children’s Foster Care Program for an initial three-day evaluation. They found the concerns for the child included lack of prenatal care and possibly premature birth (estimated gestational age 36 weeks). The child was seen 10 days later for a weight check and a newborn screening and then two months later for another well-child exam.
The foster parents of the child say the experience at Cook Children’s Foster Care program was much different than previous visits to a pediatrician’s office. In the past, the staff in other pediatric offices didn’t always understand or appreciate the unique needs and concerns of the foster parents and their children. The family spoken to for this story said previous foster well-child visits might take as few as 20 minutes and the staff couldn’t understand that this child was new to the foster parents. They weren’t sure of common questions asked of birth parents such as if the child’s immunization record was updated or different behavioral aspects of the child.
“Previously, the doctor would take less than 20 minutes looking at our child,” “Janet” said. “At Cook Children’s Fostering Health program they spent well over an hour checking her. I just appreciated their understanding of our situation. We didn’t know the things most parents know. It’s not like the child came out me. We didn’t know the family history. We didn’t know anything about this baby.”
The foster mom said she vividly remembers crying on her way home following the first two placement, well-child visits.
“I tried to explain to them, I don’t know the children. I got them less than 24 hours ago,” Janet said. “There are so many elements that’s simply out of control of the foster care parents. We don’t even know the social security number, the birth mom’s name … sometimes they don’t tell you the basic things. I just appreciated the humility of the whole office. They were all walking around oohing and awing. It is a Foster care clinic. They get it like no one else does. I really loved going to Cook Children’s.”
Services provided from the Cook Children’s Fostering Health program include:
- Providing care coordination between foster and primary care physicians, specialists, therapists and behavioral health
- Helping establish a primary care medical home
- Providing sick and well-child visits
- Coordinating with Department of Family and Protective Services and child placement agencies
To schedule an appointment with Cook Children’s Fostering Health program, call 682-885-3953. The team can combine the three-day required visit and the appointment for hair follicle drug testing if the drug test is ordered by Child Protective Services.
The program provides a medical screening within three business days of removal to:
- Assess the child’s overall health and confirm that there is no evidence of abuse
- Find out if child should be taking routine medicines and help with refills if necessary
- Document behavior changes
- Provide a well-child checkup (Texas Health Steps) within 30 days of removal
- Reduce preventable hospitalizations and Emergency Department visits
- Connect children to services such as physical and occupational therapy, behavioral health and specialists visits
- Help foster parents access health care services
To Schedule an Appointment
The purpose of a foster child’s initial three-day medical exam is to identify, treat and provide the new caregivers education regarding management of a child’s acute or chronic medical and mental health conditions.
An initial medical examination must be provided no later than the third business day after Child Protective Services removal, or sooner based on urgency of the child’s condition as required by Senate Bill 11.
Cook Children’s Fostering Health Program looks at the following when examining a new foster child:
- Height, weight, head circumference (under 3 years old)
- Addresses issues related to reason for removal (abuse, neglect, exposure); current symptoms of illness; physical and intellectual disabilities; vision, hearing or communication deficits; mental illness, suicidality, aggression or emotional distress; pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections, substance abuse.
- Refill medications patient was taking prior to removal that did not transfer with patient.
- No vaccines, except emergency tetanus vaccine if indicated.
- TB test at medical provider’s discretion.
- Lab work only at the discretion of the provider.
- Follow up recommendations based on necessity.
Children entering the foster care system or being removed from their homes often have health needs. Through Cook Children's Fostering Health program, these children receive timely and thorough medical care.
Our team follows the American Academy of Pediatrics' health care recommendations to provide a health screening within three business days and a well-child checkup within 30 days of the child's removal. During these visits, our team assess behavioral and developmental health care needs. We provide care coordination between medical and mental health providers and act as a continued resource for the children, as well as, foster and biological parents.