Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Doctor's Faith Guides Work with Maltreated Children

For every bad story about a child mistreated in foster care, I stumble across a great story about people dedicated to helping them. For every darkness that casts a shadow over vulnerable little lives, someone, somewhere is working to make things better.

Meet Dr. Phillip Scribano from New Albany, Ohio. He is the medical director of the Center for Child and Family Advocacy at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. You can read about the two health-care programs he has implemented here. One involves coordinated medical care for foster children. The other involves home visitation and outreach to mothers with children under age two. Both are promising practices, no doubt changing the lives of the children served and strengthening their futures.

Many children in foster care lack comprehensive, consistent medical care with doctors who know their histories. There are lots of different reasons for this. Children move from foster home to foster home and change caseworkers frequently. Each transition increases the likelihood of important information getting lost. As a former Children's Services caseworker, I seldom had updated medical records on a child when I received a new case.

Once as a Guardian Ad Litem I came across a medical report in the file of a new case I had just received. It involved a baby who had been scheduled for an MRI. When I contacted the foster parents, they indicated they had taken him for the MRI but assumed the caseworker would tell them if they needed any further follow up. When I talked to the caseworker, she had assumed the foster parents would be contacted by the doctor if follow up was needed. These are the cracks through which the medical care of foster children fall. Within days, thanks to a big-hearted pediatrician (probably one a lot like Dr. Scribano), the foster baby was seen and treated accordingly.

What I love about Dr. Scribano's story is that he talks about how his faith guides his passion. I know what he means. So do you. It is that feeling of being driven to be part of something bigger than just ourselves, of giving because we know that there is no greater purpose for our life. It is taking the skill you have, whether you are a doctor, social worker or everyday, average American and using it to make the life of a child better. There are so many ways to help these vulnerable children. Visit www.invisiblekidsthebook.com or read Invisible Kids: Marcus Fiesel's Legacy to learn how.

This Thanksgiving, this is what I'm grateful for. I'm grateful for the thousands of people across our country who have dedicated their lives to helping foster children. And I'm grateful that you are considering joining them.