Medically Fragile Children Awaiting Adoption . . . How can nurses help?

Medically Fragile Children Awaiting Adoption . . . How can nurses help?

Medically fragile children face a difficult road. Unlike healthy, able-bodied children, kids who struggle with medical conditions do not get to experience childhood as a carefree experience. Medications, shots, doctor visits, physical therapy, physical limitations and surgery often keep medically fragile children from enjoying the pleasantries of childhood. Even more difficult is the life of a medically fragile child living in foster care, or waiting for adoption.

The number of children entering into protective custody has increased throughout the state. In turn, the number of medically fragile children entering care has risen. As of March 1, 2005, there were 625 children in Washoe County’s foster care system. During the months of April and May of 2005, 4 children with Type I diabetes came into care. These 4 children required medical support in order to be safely maintained in a foster home. The need is equally as great in Clark County.

Foster and adoptive homes able and willing to care for medically fragile children are needed throughout the state. Foster care providers and adoptive parents are amazing people who open their homes to children who are survivors of abuse and neglect. In order to properly meet the needs of these children, more families throughout Nevada’s communities are being asked to open their homes to abused and neglected children.

Children in Nevada are looking for loving and caring homes with caretakers who are able to meet their medical needs. What kind of needs? According to Piper Brittian, Foster Care Liaison who handles children with medical needs, “We have children who require feeding tubes, are on apnea monitors and oxygen, who are diabetic, and who are in casts due to surgery. We have children with brain shunts, cerebral palsy, etc. We have one infant with severe gastrointestinal problems, who has to be hooked up to monitoring machines. In the past, we have had infants with subdural hematomas who required special care.” In short, Nevada needs a wide range of skilled persons to care for infants, children and teens.

In particular, help from the nursing community is being sought. Kristy Baker, a Foster Care Liaison with Washoe County states, “Right now there is a severe need for persons who have experience with G-buttons, methadone treatments, caffeine administration and autism.” Of the all the medical needs children in care have, diabetes is the most prevalent, according to Baker. There are more diabetic children in our care right now than there has ever been. Many of the children in our care have complications due to prenatal drug and alcohol exposure. “Nurses would be incredibly beneficial to us because of their medical background, as opposed to an inexperienced foster parent who has to obtain this type of specialty training in as little as a few hours. Nurses also have an advantage of being direct care providers, and know what type of care will be required in any given foster home.” Becky Gebhardt, an Advanced Practitioner of Nursing with Children Service speaks to the difficulty of caring for medically fragile children, “Researching medical needs and case management all of the different medical providers who care for these children is incredibly labor intensive. It’s a benefit to these children to have a nurse care for them.”

Who are these kids with extraordinary needs? Jerissa is a talkative 14-year-old who likes country music and journaling. Keir is a 10-year-old girl who loves to be snuggled. What do they have in common? Both are medically fragile children awaiting adoption. Jerissa is a diabetic who is insulin dependent. Keir has developmental disabilities, cerebral palsy and a seizure disorder. Both girls need permanent, loving families to care for them. However, not just any family can care for these children. People with specialized skills are needed Ip provide permanent homes to Jerissa and Keir. People such as nurses!! If you would like more information about Jerissa and Keir, please call Teresa Benitez at 775-337-4421. If you would like more information about becoming an adoptive and/or foster parent, please call 775-337-4470. To view other children awaiting adoption, please visit the Washoe County Adoption web site at: child adoption recruit femal e.html

The process to become a licensed foster and adoptive family is fairly simple, but somewhat involved. Washoe Courtly provides you with 27 hours of training on a range of issues so foster and adoptive parents can become familiar with the social and emotional needs of children in our care. These initial classes are referred to as “Orientation,” and new sessions begin every month. For more information on Orientation, please call the statewide hotline number at 1-888-423-2659. You can also contact the agency that handles foster care and adoptive licensing in your area. If you live in Washoe County, please call 775-337-4400. If you reside in Clark County, please call 702-455-4024. All other Nevada residents should call the Nevada Department of Child and Family Services at 775-687-4943.

Copyright Nevada Nurses Association Aug 2005

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