Health & Medicine

Clinic for foster kids celebrates 500th visit

Janice Hukle expected a hassle when she took one of her foster children to a new clinic on Waller Avenue.

The Jessamine County woman has been a foster parent to more than 100 kids over the past 30 years. And most of those kids needed special medical treatment.

Hukle was used to bullying and cajoling the medical system to get her kids the best services possible. But the doctors at the Medical Home for Coordinated Pediatrics spent a long time talking to Hukle about the needs of her foster daughter.

"They did everything for you," Hukle said of the staff at the clinic.

"There was no rush," she said. "I mean, that's just unheard of."

On Friday, the Medical Home for Coordinated Pediatrics — a clinic solely for the 7,100 Kentucky kids in foster care and the 9,000 kids who have been removed from their parents and are being taken care of by a family member — celebrated its 500th patient visit.

The clinic, a partnership between the Cabinet for Health and Family Services and the University of Kentucky Department of Pediatrics, serves 20 counties and opened in the fall of 2007. It is the first clinic of its kind in Kentucky and one of the few clinics in the country dedicated solely to treating kids in the foster care system.

Approximately 80 percent of children in foster care have special medical needs, but getting medical care for them is often difficult.

Nearly all children in the foster care system are eligible for Medicaid, a health insurance program for the poor or disabled. But it's difficult to find doctors who consistently take Medicaid, said Eric Friedlander of the Cabinet for Health and Family Services.

The other problem, Hukle said, is that sometimes kids enter the foster care system with health problems that have been undiagnosed. Or they are in the foster care system because their parents didn't get them medical treatment.

"You have to go off of whatever information has been gathered," Hukle said. And sometimes that information is dismal at best.

This clinic allows for a continuity of care, said Teresa James, the deputy commissioner for the Department for Community Based Services, which oversees foster care. Children in the foster care system who are returned to their parents can still come to the clinic, James said.

Moreover, information about each child will be entered into a database, which social workers can access if the child re-enters the foster care system, James said.

First lady Jane Beshear, at a ceremony Friday to commemorate the 500th visit, said that in tough economic times, the state needs more innovative partnerships like this one.

"If you think differently, then many things can be accomplished," Beshear said.

UK provides most of the medical staff. The Commission for Children With Special Health Care Needs, which is part of the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, provides the space. Medicaid pays for most of the care.

Friedlander said the state contributed $100,000 to the clinic's operations budget, and much of that money will be repaid by Medicaid.