Children's Health has opened its new, state-of-the-art Rees-Jones Center for Foster Care Excellence in Dallas.
The 15,000 square-foot facility is the only integrated foster care program of its kind in North Texas, and officials say it brings together experts in pediatric medicine, behavioral health, research and child welfare to deliver rehabilitative, recovery-focused care.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott was on hand for the ribbon cutting.
According to the hospital system, more than 46,000 children in Texas are in foster care each year, with the vast majority entering due to substantiated or high risk for serious abuse or neglect.
National studies indicate that up to 80 percent of children in foster care have at least one chronic medical condition, while 25 percent have three or more chronic conditions.
Foster parent Melinda Nelson shared her story at the event Monday.
She adopted two brothers who dealt with post traumatic stress disorder from their past.
She says because the state foster care children are on Medicaid, few providers offer the special services for foster children, some of whom suffer from severe mental health illnesses.
"There are a lot of foster families out there that struggle with that, and trying to get the help that these children need – as well as the love that they need and the attention that they need – it's daunting at times," Nelson said.
At the Rees-Jones Center for Foster Care Excellence, children will have access to doctors and nurses, who will manage their medical needs and work with Child Protective Service as they go from foster home to foster home.
Children's Health says it is actively working with legislators to influence foster care policy in the state of Texas.
The aim is to improve long-term health outcomes for this vulnerable population of youth.