Foster Child Health Program
Giving children a medical home away from home
Children who are placed in foster care often have many unmet health needs. In Missoula County, Mont., there has been a 75 percent increase in the number of children in foster care since the start of the Great Recession. Additionally, a higher percentage of these children have been exposed to drugs, such as methamphetamines, than ever before.
This situation has the potential of escalating and becoming a tragedy. Fortunately, in 2012 Providence caregivers started working together with local agencies to offer these children compassionate care that integrates all the services they need in a coordinated, holistic fashion.
The children are seen by the medical staff at Providence’s Grant Creek Family Medicine Clinic within 48 to 72 hours of being removed from their homes. Children with acute issues are seen even sooner. Providence’s partners in the program are the Missoula City-County Health Department, the Montana Department of Health & Human Services and the School of Social Work at the University of Montana. The government agencies make sure the clinicians have immediate access to all the children’s existing health records and case information so that the children receive comprehensive medical psychosocial assessments.
The clinic staff makes referrals for dental, mental health and specialty medical care as needed.
While the children are in the foster system, they can continue to receive their primary medical care at the Grant Creek clinic. Because the children are often placed with more than one foster family in the course of a year, seeing the same clinicians gives them more continuity and support.
The children’s medical records are entered into Providence’s Epic electronic health record system, which allows for easy sharing of the data with other clinicians as necessary.
Providence also works with its government partners to educate the foster families about the children’s health conditions. This helps the foster families provide appropriate, more consistent in-home care for the children.
The state of Montana has recognized the success of the clinic program and is working to replicate it in more areas.