Grant to Solidify Model for Health Care of Foster Children

Dec. 16, 2009
New YorkState Health Foundation gives URMC $300,000 to find best practices

The 800,000 children in the foster care system often have complicated medical and mental health histories. To address these health and social issues, the New York State Health Foundation (NYSHealth) wants to ensure they have a comprehensive pediatric practice that effectively meets children’s primary care and mental health needs. To that end, NYSHealth awarded a $300,000 grant to the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) to implement and compare a new enhanced model of care—Starlight Pediatrics-—with the best current health systems for managing health issues for children in foster care.
This new project, Fostering Connections, is an ambitious project that will be located at Monroe County’s foster care clinic, Starlight Pediatrics, and will create a more comprehensive approach to caring for children in foster care. It addresses both the primary care and mental health needs of children in foster care by using evidence-based practice to deliver on-site mental health services and parent training.
“Starlight Pediatrics has been at the forefront of the movement to give children in foster care high quality and stability in their medical and mental health, so it’s fitting that Fostering Connections will be an opportunity to expand existing services and study our enhanced model,” said Sandra Jee, M.D., M.P.H. Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at URMC’s Golisano Children’s Hospital and Research Director of Starlight Pediatrics, who is Principal Investigator for the Fostering Connections grant.
“Starlight Pediatrics’ ambitious initiative will result in improved primary and mental health care for children in foster care,” said James R. Knickman, President and CEO of the New York State Health Foundation. Strengthening our health care infrastructure and improving the health of New Yorkers requires important investments, and NYSHealth is committed to supporting projects like this one.”
Starlight Pediatrics, which at almost 20-years-old is the nation’s oldest centralized medical home for children in foster care, is a national model of care. Under the direction of Moira Szilagyi, M.D., Ph.D., Associate Professor of Pediatrics at Golisano Children’s Hospital, it serves all children in family-based foster care in Monroe County, caring for approximately 700 children and providing 3,400 visits every year. The clinic recently held a ground-breaking on a new facility to open in January 2010, supported by a $3.06 million HEAL-NY grant to combine a state-of-the-art health clinic with a visitation center.
NYSHealth support will allow Starlight Pediatrics to implement the Fostering Connections project. Additional aims of the project include a comparative effective analysis of existing health care systems for foster care and implementation of an evidence-based parenting program to help foster parents manage social-emotional problems of children in foster care. Key community collaborators will include the Department of Human Services, Mt. Hope Family Center, the Children’s Institute, and the Society for the Protection and Care of Children. Findings from this project, along with curricula for practitioners and parents, will be made available to foster care stakeholders through the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Healthy Foster Care America Website:, which Szilagyi has been instrumental in launching as vice co-chair of the AAP Healthy Foster Care America initiative.
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NYSHealth, whose mission is to expand health insurance coverage, increase access to high-quality health care services, and improve public and community health was established by the State of New York with charitable funds from the privatization of Empire Blue Cross/Blue Shield.