First Lady Tonette Walker

State to create coordinated care program for foster children

By Guy Boulton and Crocker Stephenson, Journal Sentinel
Monday, July 30, 2012

The Department of Health Services has received federal approval to create a foster care "medical home" program in southeastern Wisconsin, Gov. Scott Walker announced Monday.

The program, scheduled to begin this fall, is designed to break down the barriers that too often delay, sometimes even prevent, important medical information from being shared when a child who has suffered abuse or neglect is removed from his or her home and placed in protective services, said Fredi-Ellen Bove, administrator of the Division of Safety and Permanence for the Department of Children and Families.

It will also improve the quality of the care that these children receive by requiring timely health screenings, full medical, dental and behavior exams, she said.

The initiative seeks to create a virtual "medical home" in which children will receive individualized treatment plans addressing their specific needs.

A joint initiative of the Department of Health Services and the Department of Children and Families, the program will be implemented in Milwaukee, Waukesha, Racine, Kenosha, Ozaukee and Washington counties and is expected to reach 2,500 children.

Under the program, each child will have a primary care provider and team that will create a care plan focused on the specific needs of the child. In addition, a care coordinator will communicate with the child protection worker, the child's parent or guardian, and other health care providers.

The program facilitates the use of trauma-informed care, a treatment approach hailed by specialists as particularly effective in addressing the needs of children who have been neglected or abused or have experienced the pain of being taken from their homes.

"By providing individualized, trauma-informed care we will improve the lives of individuals in foster care," Walker said in a statement. “My wife, Tonette, has been emphasizing the importance and benefits of trauma-informed care and now children in foster care will benefit from these services because of this extensive state agency collaboration."

"Many children who enter foster care have experienced traumatic events in their young lives and, as a result, often have intensive physical, behavioral, and mental health needs," Eloise Anderson, Secretary of the Department of Children and Families, said in a statement.

"By immediately assessing their needs with a trauma-informed approach, we have another tool to help break the cycle of harm caused by these adverse experiences."

Susan Conwell, executive director of the Milwaukee-based child advocacy group Kids Matter, called the program "a very positive step forward."

"It will be crucial that information flows both ways for the medical home to be successful," she cautioned.

"Doctors cannot accurately assess trauma without timely information from the child welfare system. Historically, this has been very difficult," she said.

Article Link: http://www.jsonline.com/business/state-to-create-coordinated-medical-care-program-for-foster-children-k869v8l-164272456.html