Cincinnati Children's Helping Lead Effort To Improve Health and Education of Foster Children

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center is helping lead a broad-based community effort aimed at improving the health and education of foster children in Ohio.

The Foster Youth ePassport program is intended to create an electronic record that stores health, education and social services records of foster children. Many foster children experience problems obtaining services because of missing or incomplete records as they move among different homes, schools, social service agencies and medical providers.

"When children enter foster care, their medical and scholastic histories are often unavailable to the foster parent or to Job and Family Services, their temporary guardian. This interrupts routine health care, medical treatment and education," says Robert Shapiro, MD, medical director of ePassport in Ohio and of the Mayerson Center for Safe and Healthy Children at Cincinnati Children's. "We have a responsibility to children who live in foster care. They should have access to appropriate and needed medical care, and they should have the required documentation needed to enroll in school. ePassport promises to make this information readily accessible and secure. It will help to level the playing field for foster care children."

ePassport is a program of the Community College Foundation, based in California. The Foundation has received federal funding to establish ePassport as a national pilot project in Ohio. The program will be piloted in Hamilton and Franklin counties, beginning later this year. Partners include public school systems, Job and Family Services, Cincinnati Children's and Columbus Children's hospital.

ePassport uses a smart card to access an Internet-based health and education data system. Records are updated in real time, are portable and secure. ePassport makes foster youth information instantly accessible 24/7, preventing over-immunization, medication interactions and misdiagnoses. It also allows education testing, placement and achievement data to accompany students from school to school. The database can be updated at any time.

Approximately 20,000 children are in foster care in Ohio, and more than 500,000 children in the United States reside in some form of foster care, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. In addition, an estimated $1.5 billion is spent each year on duplicative services for foster youth, according to the Community College Foundation.

"Being removed from their home and placed in foster care is a difficult and stressful experience for any child," according to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. "Many of these children have suffered some form of serious abuse or neglect. About 30 percent of children in foster care have severe emotional, behavioral, or developmental problems. Physical health problems are also common."

Cincinnati Children's is a 423-bed institution devoted to bringing the world the joy of healthier kids. Cincinnati Children's is dedicated to transforming the way health care is delivered by providing care that is timely, efficient, effective, family-centered, equitable and safe. It ranks third nationally among all pediatric centers in research grants from the National Institutes of Health. The Cincinnati Children's vision is to be the leader in improving child health.

Contact Information

Jim Feuer, jim.feuer@cchmc.org, 513-636-4656