Eleven year-old Mira came into care due to life-threatening medical neglect and truancy. She had missed more than three months of school and presented with multiple, complex medical needs that challenged her mother’s ability to keep her well and safe. Unable to walk or speak, Mira could communicate her needs only by laughing and crying.
While in the hospital recovering from pneumonia, low weight, and other problems brought on by neglect, Mira was adjudicated dependent by the Court. She was ultimately placed in a pediatric nursing facility while her condition stabilized. Mira’s case was referred to Child Advocates, and our Child Advocate Attorney and Social Worker immediately got to work with other members of Mira’s team to develop a plan for the child’s future care. The prospects for reuniting Mira and her mother looked brighter when Mom began visiting her daughter. Though encumbered with a difficult language barrier, Mira’s mother ultimately took the required medical training to help her with her daughter’s care. After careful scrutiny, she was deemed able to care for Mira, though Child Advocates’ team advocated for a secondary caregiver in the home or neighborhood. Over a period of months, Mira’s Child Advocate team planned for her reunification with her mother, working to ensure an optimal environment where Mira could thrive. The team contacted the neighborhood school to provide an update on Mira’s case and special needs.
Due to the assistance she received from Child Advocates and other agencies, Mira has finally returned home. With adequate in-home nursing care in place, her mother is able to care for her. At school, Mira is carefully observed for any signs of the difficulties she previously experienced. She is doing well both at school and home.
In the Project for Medically Needy Children, Child Advocates teams staff social workers with specially trained volunteer attorneys to improve the health and safety of a special population of children whose serious and/or chronic medical needs have exceeded their caregivers’ capacity to care for them and are thus subject to protective proceedings in Philadelphia’s Family Court. Children are accepted into this Project because their medical issues are the primary basis of their involvement in Dependency Court or otherwise the primary factor of their service needs. Our lawyer/social worker teams work to ensure the health and safety of these children and secure necessary medical treatment, special education, rehabilitative services and permanent nurturing homes whenever possible. Focused on health-related outcomes, this unique multi-disciplinary collaboration between lawyers and social workers assures at-risk children of comprehensive representation and care. Our medically needy cases are complex, remain open longer, and require more agency resources. Through the Project, Child Advocates addresses a serious gap in services to children, as these cases are not served by any other organization.