Medically Fragile Children In Virginia Foster Care System

Medically fragile children in Virginia foster care could present as infants to teens. 

What Is a Medically Fragile Child in Foster Care?

Medically fragile children in the Virginia foster care system are diverse. They can be any age, from infants to teens. They could have been born with a chronic health condition or are experiencing an acute health condition. They all have in common that they are sick, alone, and in need of a loving foster parent who will make them feel safe.

Children classified by the Department of Social Service as "medically fragile" can have various medical needs. They may have been born substance-exposed or with a developmental disorder. They could also be a child diagnosed with failure to thrive.

"Children are diagnosed with failure to thrive when their weight or rate of weight gain is significantly below that of other children of similar age and sex. Infants or children that fail to thrive seem to be dramatically smaller or shorter than other children the same age. Teenagers may have short stature or appear to lack the usual changes that occur at puberty." - From Johns Hopkins Medicine. 

All children in foster care have a common need for a stable, nurturing foster home to receive care while permanency can be achieved. Medically fragile children need an even larger support group that includes birth parents, foster parents, biological families, medical professionals, and child welfare professionals to ensure the highest quality of life possible.

What would be required of me as a foster parent for medically fragile children? 

Departments of Social Services (DSS) prefer to see that a foster parent has previous knowledge or experience caring for someone with medical needs. This could be personal or professional experience. They do not necessarily need a parent to have experience with the child's specific condition (though they would see that as a motivating factor to choose your home study!) but rather to know that you have enough knowledge to adapt with additional training.

Often, the DSS and medical providers will have the foster parents complete parent training on the child's specific medical needs before the child is placed in the home, especially if the child is being released from a hospital setting.

Departments of Social Services also prefer that a parent have a flexible schedule due to the many appointments the child may have. This can include in-home providers such as nursing, occupational therapy, or physical therapy. Another reason DSS may prefer a flexible schedule is that a medically fragile child may not be cleared for daycare and would need daytime supervision. 

Another requirement is to be a fierce supporter of the medically fragile child. Unfortunately, due to bias in the medical system, foster parents must advocate for doctors to take their child's medical concerns seriously. Some foster and adoptive parents believe doctors aren't taking the child's symptoms seriously. The doctors may think the parents are overstating the symptoms.

In times like these, parents must be fierce champions for the medically fragile foster children in their care. Continue to speak up until your concerns are heard. 

What would I be expected to do as a foster parent? 

Your first and most important expectation is to provide a safe, nurturing environment where the child will thrive. Foster parents are also expected to advocate for the children in their care, participate in all recommended services for the child, and include the biological family in those services when possible.

If you are part of a therapeutic foster care agency, your clinical specialist will support your family and help coordinate care. This allows your family to focus on the care you are providing for your child.

Are you interested in becoming a foster parent? Give us a call today. 

You do not have to be a medical professional to help. You just need to be willing to learn. We will teach you.

Click here to learn more. 

I am sick, I am in foster care, and I am scared. Will you help me?


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