Fostering Hope and Healing
July 03, 2017 - Promise Magazine
The 2016 grand opening of the Rees-Jones Center for Foster Care Excellence is the latest milestone in a continued commitment to helping Texas’ most vulnerable children.
With the symbolic snip of a giant red ribbon, the new Rees-Jones Center for Foster Care Excellence at Children’s Medical Center Dallas officially opened Dec. 5.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott joined Christopher J. Durovich, president and CEO of Children’s Health; Dr. Anu Partap, director of the new Center; Dr. Heidi Roman, ambulatory medical director and assistant professor of pediatrics, and Jan and Trevor Rees-Jones for the ribbon cutting. Only five months earlier, a new foster care clinic had opened at Children’s Medical Center Plano, allowing even more children in foster care to have access to specialized care.
There are approximately 7,000 children in the Dallas-Fort Worth area in foster care, and one in eight has high medical, behavioral, emotional, intellectual and developmental needs.
For Gov. Abbott, the opening of the Center offers hope to the 40,000 children in foster care across the state.
"The Rees-Jones Center provides the childcentric care that our families and communities need to meaningfully advance our foster care system," said Gov. Abbott. When you combine the synergy of brillant healers backed by passionate philanthropy, the support of innovative institutions and nurturing families, nothing can stop us."
The new clinic spaces were funded by a $20 million gift from the Rees-Jones Foundation – the largest gift ever from a living donor in the history of Children’s Health – as well as six-figure gifts from the Women’s Auxiliary to Children’s Medical Center, the Meadows Foundation, Rhonda and Charles Koetting, the Lupe Murchison Foundation and the George and Fay Young Foundation.
“It’s one of the most important goals of our foundation: the defense and healing of children who suffer from abuse, neglect, family violence or physical or mental disability,” said Trevor Rees-Jones. “Many of these children are in long-term foster care. This new Center gives us hope for the healing of these children and gives us great comfort that they will be receiving the highest quality care available.”
Mr. Rees-Jones called Dr. Partap a “gamechanger.” It was in part her vision that guided the concept and design for the Center.
“The community rallied and did this for our kids, and it is so overwhelming,” said Dr. Partap, who is also an assistant professor of pediatrics at UT Southwestern Medical Center. “It is gratifying to be part of the opening of such an exceptionally beautiful and therapeutic welcoming space for kids. Everyone who had a hand in it went above and beyond.”
Dr. Partap’s passion for serving children in foster care started in medical school when she noticed that if patients were living with family violence, it undermined their health and ability to get better. She said victims of abuse or neglect need to be treated the same as those with other medical conditions, and they need an intensive treatment plan so they are able to live a full life.
The Rees-Jones Center for Foster Care Excellence is the only place in North Texas with an integrated approach. It is designed to become a model of foster care excellence across the state and nation by working to develop best practices for other programs to replicate.
“Children frequently enter foster care with complex medical issues, including drug withdrawal; discomfort from neglected health care; the inability to talk, walk or learn; or brain damage from abuse,” Dr. Partap explained. “Our new Center at Children’s Health focuses on providing children in foster care with hope, health and healing – they are truly at the heart of all we do. None of this would be possible without the incredible generosity of the Rees- Jones Foundation and the passionate advocacy of each and every one of our team members.”
The Rees-Jones Center brings together experts in pediatric medicine, behavioral health, research and child welfare to deliver rehabilitative, recovery-focused care. In addition to medical, behavioral and mental health care, the Rees- Jones Center provides on-site Child Protective Services liaisons to coordinate patients’ care with other state agencies as needed.
Children in foster care are on every spectrum of special health care needs, ranging from birthrelated conditions, such as prematurity, fetal alcohol exposure, cerebral palsy and autism, to developmental and learning delays from abuse or neglect. The toxic stress they have been living with often sets off an inflammatory response, including asthma or skin problems. The children also are living with people they don’t know and moving around, which adds another dimension in a transitional period of life.
Dr. Partap is working to implement a system in Texas in which children who enter foster care are seen by a team of medical professionals within three days. The current standard is 60 days. She has been instrumental in bringing the Texas foster care system to the forefront of legislative focus. In March and April, she testified before the Senate Health and Human Services Committee and the House Select Committee on Mental Health.
“This Center is groundbreaking, and we are pleased to be a part of it,” said Mr. Rees-Jones. “Today we celebrate the opening of this Center; tomorrow we hope to extend the successes learned here across the region and the state. We want these children to know there is a place where they can find support, encouragement, healing and hope for a bright future.”
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