(Medically Fragile in Maryland)
CONCERN’s Medical Foster Care program serves children from birth to 21 years of age who require more specialized attention than those children in traditional foster care programs or children who would otherwise need to reside in the more restrictive setting of a hospital or institution.
Recognizing the specialized requirements of this program, CONCERN identifies foster parents who are capable of meeting the child’s unique needs. Prior to placement, foster parents work with medical personnel to receive training in the specific medical conditions and treatment of the child. After the child has been transferred to the foster home, the facility continues to provide follow-up medical services. In addition to providing medical training for the foster parents, CONCERN assigns each child a caseworker who acts as case manager, counselor and service coordinator. Initially, the caseworker has weekly in-person contacts with the child. When the relationship has developed and the child is adjusting, contacts are reduced to twice a month.
CONCERN provides foster parents the support of family workers, caseworkers, casework supervisors, relief counselors and a medical counselor. In addition, CONCERN caseworkers arrange for the provision of support services through community resources.
Children placed into the Medical Foster Care program may have a wide range of medical complexities. Conditions may be expected to improve, be long-term or chronic, or even terminal. Children with moderate-to-severe psychological disorders may also be accommodated through this program.
Medical foster care has included a wide range of pediatric conditions including prematurity, respiratory, cardiac, gastric, orthopedic, brain and spine, neurological, immunological, metabolical and genetic disorders as well as cognitive and developmental delays.
Common diseases in the program are cerebral palsy, mental retardation, HIV, seizure disorder, gastro esophageal reflux disease, asthma and diabetes. Uncommon, even rare, diseases found in the program are cystinosis, prune belly syndrome, propionic acidemia and childhood Huntingdon’s Chorea.
Through training and practical experience, CONCERN foster parents develop technological skills in tube feeding, apnea monitors, pulse oximetry, nebulizer treatments, tracheostomy care and others.
CONCERN is a Medical Assistance type 50 medical foster care service provider.
“The first time I saw Colleen she was surrounded by all this equipment and tubes,” explained Miriam, a foster parent with CONCERN’s Medical Foster Care program. “I looked at her and said, ‘Don’t worry, I’m taking you home.'”
With that decision, Miriam and her husband began their medical training, which started with a full week of lessons at the hospital. Since bringing her home, they have nurtured Colleen from four pounds to 12 pounds and celebrated her every achievement. Colleen struggled into the world, spending her first weeks on life support and facing major surgery for heart and lung complications. She had a diaphragmatic hernia, a deformity of the lungs, went into cardiac arrest immediately after birth and was put onto life support.
Colleen’s foster family offered her a lot of love, but also a lot of intensive, specialized medical care. Thanks to their watchfulness and support along with the guidance of her CONCERN caseworker, Colleen has thrived in her foster home and has become strong enough to breathe on her own.
“She’s come a long way since we brought her home,” Miriam said. “All children have special needs. Sometimes you have to make sacrifices in life to conquer something for a positive outcome.”