New foster care centers offer children hope and healing
January 11, 2017
Last month’s grand opening of the Rees-Jones Center for Foster Care Excellence is the latest milestone in a continued commitment to helping our state’s most vulnerable children.
Tears of joy filled Dr. Anu Partap’s eyes as the giant red ribbon was cut in front of the new Rees-Jones Center for Foster Care Excellence at Children’s Health℠ Children’s Medical Center in Dallas.
“The community rallied and did this for our kids, and it is so overwhelming” says Dr. Partap, director of the Rees-Jones Center for Foster Care Excellence and 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.”
Serving the Most Vulnerable Children
On Dec. 5, Texas Governor Greg Abbott joined Christopher Durovich, president and CEO of Children’s Health, Dr. Partap, Dr. Heidi Roman, ambulatory medical director and pediatrician at the new center, and Jan and Trevor Rees-Jones for the ribbon cutting. Only five months earlier, a new foster care clinic opened at Children’s Medical Center in Plano, allowing even more children in foster care to have access to specialized care.
The new clinic spaces were funded by a $20 million gift from the Rees-Jones Foundation, 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.
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 says victims of abuse or neglect need to be treated the same as those with other medical conditions and go through an intensive treatment plan so they are still able to live a full life.
Integrated Care Under One Roof
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 says. “Our new center at Children’s Health centers around 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.”
More than 40,000 children are currently in the Texas foster care system and studies estimate that nearly 80 percent of those children have at least one chronic medical condition. 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 an on-site Child Protective Services (CPS) liaison to coordinate patients’ care with other state agencies as needed.
Children in foster care are on every spectrum of special healthcare needs ranging from birth-related conditions such as prematurity because of maternal drug use, 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.
Rees-Jones Center at-a-glance:
- Housed in 10,000 square feet at the Dallas location and 4,000 square feet in Plano
- Serves 1,400 children each year
- Nearly 4,000 visits across two clinics each year
- Dedicated rooms for exams, interviews, therapy, observation, screening and more
- Multidisciplinary team including experts in pediatric medicine, Child Protective Services (CPS), Psychiatry and behavioral health.
“These children are strong and funny and can tell you what they want to be when they grow up,” Dr. Partap said. “Watching them improve, grow and gain skills keeps us going and is very humbling. When a child who has never spoken before starts speaking to you, it’s truly an amazing moment.”
One patient who stands out in Dr. Partap’s mind is a boy who suffered abuse and neglect which left him with fractures. He was not fed and lived in fear.
“We watched this boy’s spirit heal and the family connect with him,” Dr. Partap says. “He began feeling less anxious and fearful and is now being adopted. Watching him go through the journey to healing and finding a forever family was extremely gratifying.
Learn more about the Foster Care program at Children’s Health.
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