Their bright faces light up the photographs with cheesy grins from ear to ear.
The four children appear to have a normal childhood, as pictures show them armed with water wings and floating in a pool. Another photo shows the boy in a Spider-Man costume, flexing his muscles while his three sisters laugh for the camera.
These children are in Clark County’s foster care system, where there are 3,000 on any given day who have been taken into care and are living outside of their homes. This particular group of kids is medically fragile, which means they rely on medications, treatments, equipment and assistance with daily activities just to survive. The four children have specialists all over the country.
Their medical dependency could be a result of an accident, abuse, neglect, illness or a congenital disorder.
Foster parent Irving “Rusty” Romer declined to go into specifics about their afflictions, citing an ongoing case. Romer and his wife, Donna, have been providing emergency care to children such as these through various valleywide agencies for two years.
“The experience can be scary at times,” Irving Romer said. “It’s just a lack of information to start with, and it starts coming as you deal with these children. It’s part of the system. Unless they’ve been in and out of Child Haven many times, you don’t know much. I get a medical packet on these children the day I start, and then I have to maintain the packet. If they go to a home, they’ll have all of the information I can provide.”
The couple drive all over the valley — from Henderson to Summerlin and Sunrise to the Southwest — for the children’s doctor appointments. The four children have been in the Romers’ care for almost a year.
With the June 14 opening of the Positively Kids Family Healthcare Clinic at the Child Haven campus, 701 N. Pecos Road (the clinic entrance is on Bonanza Road across from Peggy’s Attic behind Family Court), that way of life for both foster parents and children could change. The clinic will provide medical and dental care for children up to 18 years old who are in the system and elsewhere.
“Depending on who we have to take them to see, it’s 25 miles one way,” Irving Romer said. “If they can provide this in one location, especially with gas prices today, that would save a lot on travel. It would make things a lot easier for parents in the future.”
The brightly colored, 5,000-square-foot clinic houses exam and procedure rooms, X -ray equipment and has dental surgical capabilities. Services will be provided by health care professionals in the community, including pediatricians, certified pediatric nurse practitioners, physician assistants, medical assistants, dentists and dental assistants. Families will be able to pay for services privately or through Medicaid and private insurance.
The Foundation for Positively Kids, which is opening the clinic and provides other resources for medically fragile children, can absorb some health care costs supplemented by grant money, private donations and a clothing donation program. Fred Schultz, the foundation’s CEO, said the group’s 145 donation stations throughout the valley generated 4 million pounds of clothing last year. Thrift stores buy the clothing by the pound.
“That’s a huge business. It’s unrestricted money,” Schultz said. “It’s a business that generates revenue for me to pay for the children who come to this clinic who don’t have any money. I’m not telling you as a mom with this little girl, and you’re not in the Medicaid system yet, that you can’t get services until you’ve got a buck in your pocket. We don’t think that’s acceptable. That’s what’s been said in the past.”
At this clinic, patient charts won’t hang on the walls because of the sensitive nature of some of the cases. Doctors will pick the files up from a certain location and carry them as they greet patients called in for examination. To start, about 35 kids will be seen daily, eventually capping out around 90 patients per day once the clinic is fully established. The goal is to see about 16,000 children annually.
Schultz said the clinic was a natural transition for his foundation in becoming the valley’s first medical home, a “continuum of care” where foster families can get case management, home health care, medical daycare, skilled respite and, now, clinical services.
“It’s the first of its kind here,” he said. “Nobody does it here. We just have seen a medical home. Providing pediatric services is very fragmented. There are doctors, very good pediatricians, but there is not one pediatric provider that exclusively provides all of those services in one continuum of care.”
Although the clinic hasn’t officially opened, one of its first patients was a little girl found by police running around Fremont Street in a diaper. She had white powder — not cocaine — smeared across her face. The girl received medical care and was entered into foster care.
The foundation plans to break ground at the end of this year on a 90,000-square-foot, $50 million pediatric nursing facility near Green Valley Parkway and Sunset Road in Henderson, which will offer long- and short-term care beds, administration, nursing services, medical day care and a multi-specialty clinic.
Contact Downtown and North Las Vegas View reporter Kristi Jourdan at firstname.lastname@example.org or 383-0492.Find out more
For more information about the clinic or Foundation for Positively Kids, visit positivelykids.org or call 262-0037.