Children's Voice May/June 2008

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One on One
Questions and Answers with CWLA Staff

Charlene Ingram, Senior Program Director

CWLA has been a participant in the American Academy of Pediatrics' Task Force on Foster Care. What is the purpose of the task force and why has CWLA been involved?

The task force's concern is enhancing the quality of medical care that children receive in foster care, including dental and mental health care, as well as physical health care. CWLA represents the child welfare perspective on this issue. The other members of the committee include representatives from the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, the Foster Care Alumni of America, the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, the National Foster Parent Association, and the National Medical Association.

If we think about our focus in child welfare--safety, permanence, and well-being--certainly health and medical care is part of the well-being of a child, so it is important for us to look at how we include treating physicians in the assessment of needs and the service planning and service delivery for children.

We appreciate the fact that CWLA has been recognized and invited to the table as a resource by the American Academy of Pediatrics. We are looking forward to a continued collaboration and inclusion in the work they are doing related to foster care.

The task force is currently planning the development of various tools that physicians, social workers, and other key stakeholders can use in responding to the need for adequate health care planning and service delivery for children in the foster care system. Tell us more about why such tools are important.

The approach to health care for children in foster care should be collaborative in nature, especially as it relates to the efforts of the physician and child welfare social worker. Understanding respective roles in a child's life, growth, and development is important. Tools that both social workers and physicians can use to identify health care issues and the child's needs will help enhance the overall quality of service that children receive. If doctors and social workers are on the same page about what is happening to children in foster care, as it relates to their health and access to medical treatment, it enables us to be more effective in our service planning. Additionally, understanding the relationship between children's health needs and behavior has the potential of being a supportive factor in achieving placement stability and positive permanency outcomes for children.

I'm not convinced that the information available to child welfare workers around the medical needs of children is easily accessible, or that there is comprehensive training in this area. I think what select tools will do is give one a contextual framework for approaching the health issues and the health needs of children in foster care.

What else is the task force working on?

There has been a lot of discussion about a medical home for a child. What we are talking about is continuity of care, that when a child moves from one place to another, they sometimes lose the connection with their treating physician.

Sometimes the physician can be or has been the one constant in a child's life and we want to see if we can maintain that connection. We can address this issue by enhancing the working partnership and relationship between the social worker and the physician in meeting the needs of the child, and in operating from a common baseline of knowledge about what is happening to children in foster care, as it relates to their health needs and development.

Where can we access resources from the American Academy of Pediatrics' work around foster care?

In June, the American Academy of Pediatrics launched a new website with resources for families, youth, communities, health care providers, and other professionals who care for children in foster care.

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