On any given day in the U.S., there are nearly 438,000 children in foster care. In 2016, more than 687,000 children spent time in U.S. foster care.
Patti Patterson, M.D., professor of pediatrics at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center (TTUHSC) and the only board certified child abuse pediatrician in West Texas, has seen first hand what problems foster children endure.
“I had been practicing child abuse pediatrics for about five years and was becoming increasingly frustrated with being unable to address the ongoing problems these kids have,” Patterson said. “We know children who are maltreated in childhood have increased risks of heart disease, alcoholism, drug abuse, depression, suicidality, teen pregnancy — on and on. I searched the literature and talked to a lot of people. There are therapies that can help these kids change their trajectory for the rest of their lives. This wasn’t readily available here. We set out to make it available. The Foster Care Center of Excellence brings all the components together to help these kids and their families.”
Recently, Superior Healthplan presented the 2018 Foster Care Center of Excellence Award to TTUHSC physicians Patterson, Michal Pankratz, M.D., Todd Bell, M.D., and Rachel Anderson, M.D.
Pankratz is an assistant professor of pediatrics. Bell is an associate professor and regional chair for the Department of Pediatrics in Amarillo. He also serves as medical director for Infection Control and Prevention at Northwest Texas Health System and director for the West Texas Influenza Center. Anderson is an assistant professor of pediatrics in Amarillo.
The Foster Care Center of Excellence Award highlights the support provided by TTUHSC to children in foster care and their families. Superior Healthplan established the award to raise the overall level of care received by its members. The award means TTUHSC met more than 60 criteria, including program processes, quality improvement and staff requirements.
Brent Magers, CEO of Texas Tech Physicians, said these physicians are the foot soldiers on the ground making a difference in the lives of foster children.
“Foster children have special needs and people in Texas are taking notice of the remarkable work TTUHSC and Texas Tech Physicians are providing,” Magers said.
Richard Lampe, M.D., chairman of the Department of Pediatrics, said the community has the three Ps — pediatrics, Patterson and Pankratz to bring needed health care to foster children.
“Children are important but when they are taken away from their families, it is never a happy situation,” Lampe said. “TTUHSC and Texas Tech Physicians are important access points because we are set up to provide access to care, especially subspecialty care like trauma and psychiatry needed by foster kids.”
A 2016 Journal of Pediatrics study found that children in foster care were twice as likely as others to have learning disabilities and developmental delays, five times as likely to have anxiety, six times as likely to have behavioral problems and seven times as likely to have depression.
Patterson hopes TTUHSC and Texas Tech Physicians efforts make an impact in foster children’s heath and lives.
“We have a passion to help foster children,” Patterson said. “We believe we can help stabilize them and their placements, so they don’t bounce around the foster care system. Perhaps they get a forever home sooner. If we make the system better for foster kids, we make it better for all kids.”