Like most mothers of a toddler, when Linda West plays with her adopted daughter, she models behavior, such as how to catch a ball, mixing instruction with congratulatory hugs and praise.
But there is nothing ordinary about their relationship. Three years ago, the four-month old preemie baby, a victim of her birth mother’s methamphetamine binges, became a ward of the state due to her mother's drug addiction. Shortly after, the local authorities became concerned for the infants safety after learning her mother has a history of allegedly trying to sell her newly born infants in parking lots and off of the internet.
Thanks to the nonprofit Angels In Waiting, this little girl and other “medically fragile” foster children receive a chance to overcome physical and developmental obstacles in an unusual, government-approved placement arrangement. At-risk babies go home to the comforting and knowledgeable arms of licensed vocational or registered nurses like West, who are registered foster care providers and paid for their care-giving through Medicaid.
Just as a methamphetamine epidemic among young women is creating an ever-increasing number of fragile newborns in need of care, donations to Angels dropped by half during the recession, clipping West’s efforts to recruit other nurse care-givers.
Now, West is trying a different tactic to help salvage her passion with another charity, Laguna Beach-based Nurses for Safer Access, 1968 S. Coast Highway. The storefront, which opens Sept. 7, will offer botanically-based health supplements to be distributed to customers under the supervision of a registered nurse where appropriate.
West sought natural remedies as substitutes for some of the myriad pharmaceuticals with their side effects prescribed for her own medically fragile children. The alternatives provided great results.
Now, West hopes to both raise funds for AIW and promote the use of herbal remedies with Nurses for Safer Access. Her 20-year-old nephew, local resident Blake Chapman, has joined her in launching the nonprofit to distribute herbs, nutritional supplements, vitamins, and teas costing from $6 to $100, which are largely unregulated by the Food and Drug Administration, including high potency supplements that are only sold to health care providers.
West and Chapman don’t wish aim to provide safer access to Eastern-style remedies where practicable. “I have no problem integrating Western and Eastern medicine as a nurse,” she said.
Currently, West’s Angels number 45 nurses, mostly in Southern California. They operate independently and have obtained credentials to provide in-home care to medically fragile foster children, an alternative to discharging tiny patients from ICUs to nursing institutions or group homes. So far they have cared for about 110 babies.
According to Terry Lynn Fisher, spokeswoman for Orange County’s Social Services Agency, even though the agency’s goal is to keep children with their birth parents whenever possible, they always have a need for more foster parents qualified and willing to care for medically fragile and disabled children.
Care by a single individual rather than a rotating staff fulfills a child’s need to bond, said consultant Jackie Peebles, also of Lake Arrowhead, an early intervention specialist, who established Special Discoveries Educational Services, Inc. in 2002. Infants deprived of nurturing may fail to thrive and face developmental challenges, she said.
For autistic children and drug-exposed babies, early and meaningful intervention will decrease negative behavior and increase developmental milestones, said Peebles, who works with AIW nurses. “We are able to mitigate a lot of the severe problems that these children have.”
Working in hospitals in San Bernardino County where meth addiction has soared, West and other nurses were frustrated that their work schedules didn’t allow time to hold and comfort the compromised infants. The mantra, “if only I could take you home…” was often wistfully uttered. Then West thought, why not? Why can’t we take them home?
Determined to find a solution, she unearthed a Medicaid program called “In Home Operations” created in 1967 so that infants would not be institutionalized. West figured out the process that allows licensed nurses to become credentialed as foster-care providers for medically fragile children and bill Medi-Cal for their nursing. She founded Angels In Waiting in 2005 to promote the concept.
Ninety percent of AIW-recruited nurses adopt, partly because they become so attached to their children and sometimes in part because they may have reservations about the quality of care they’ll receive in other homes, West said. Foster parents for medically fragile children receive a monthly stipend of $1,200 from California Children’s Services.
“Once they call you ‘mommy,’ it’s all over,” said West, who lives in Lake Arrowhead, with her daughter and her new brother Sammy, now 8, another meth micro preemie who West also adopted.
Nurses for Safer Access will initially be open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. seven days a week and can be contacted at 949 715-7757.
The glorious month of May brings many blessings, warmer weather, the fresh smell of rain from May’s spring showers, the abundance of fresh new life growing all around us, blustering with the intent of meeting its God-given full potential. In addition, the month for May also honors Foster Care Awareness, Nurse Appreciation, and of course, the most important tribute- Mother's Day!
The correlation of all the events in May did not strike me as peculiar, until it was brought to my attention by an interview… I was nervously getting ready to do a live online interview for Angels In Waiting with a large, widely listened to online syndicated radio show called “Online with Andrea.” Andrea’s, special guests for her Mother’s Day Special included Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann, and several other very high-ranking congressional–linked nonprofit organizations. Organizations who are reaching out to help address the issues within our foster care system, and other nonprofits helping the staggering number of, 163 million orphan children throughout our world…
163 million faces needing to find love, dedication, and a Mother. I was literally emotionally shocked, with that mine boggling statistics. Sicken to think, universally across our globe millions of women no longer value “Motherhood,” let alone the innocent and the precious lives they gave birth to.
I was pondering while I was also rehearsing for my “unknown questions and unpolished answers segment” for the online interview: How and Why women collectively have lost their ability to properly “mother”? To effectively “mother” is any species most sacred possession for optimal survival… But then the musical intro for the online syndicated radio show; “Online with Andrea” started and these inspirational Mothers, gave me hope, and showed me motherhood is thriving, and the ability to deeply love, and lay down our life for our offspring or somebody else’s offspring …is alive and well! Happy Mothers Day! To All of The Nurturing, Loving and Dedicated Mothers! The Link: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/onlinewithandrea/2011/05/03/adoption-and-foster-care-with-congresswoman-michele-bachmann
Sammy's StorySammy is a true medical miracle! Sammy is not my biological son. I know the deep piercing bond a son from my womb can bring. I love my Sammy just as deeply.Sammy was born a full four months early at the fragile weight of 17 ounces when his birthmother's placenta burst due to her addiction to methamphetamine s and landed her in the hospital. When he tested positive for methamphetamines, Sammy was taken into the custody of Children's Services; his mother's rights suspended until she tested negative for the drug. His premature delivery meant his organs were not developed enough to sustain his life. His lungs were so underdeveloped; he couldn't take his first breath. His brain and nervous system were so undeveloped they couldn't remind him he even needed one. He survived for the next 14 months in the hospital under the care of medical personnel utilizing mechanical ventilation and IV drips, while he fought his mother's drug addiction. He rapidly produced hundreds of hemangiomas on the outside of his body and thousands more on the inside that impeded the natural function of all his organs. This subjected him to several years of chemotherapy.To the amazement of hospital staff, he endured seven abdominal surgeries and survived four close-call resuscitations. Sammy was continually pricked with needles. He was so troubled he slept sitting up. Afraid to relax into dreamland, he posed for his next onslaught of cold painful medical procedures delivered by sterile hands and blue scrubs. (see Photo at web site http://www.angelainwaitingUSA.org)Against extraordinary odds, Sammy continued to fight for his life, alone, without the emotional support of a nurturing mother. The severity of his illness and grim prognosis prompted doctors to request a Do Not Resuscitate Form be signed by the appointed court judge. Thankfully, the judge refused, and Sammy continued to make use of the hospital's personnel heroic resuscitation efforts. Miraculously, and to the continued amazement of the nurses, therapists and physicians charged with his care, he stabilized enough to be discharged from the hospital.He was placed in a group home for medically fragile children where he was able to bond with other children who were fighting incredible fights of their own (see Alexia's Story from our web site). Six months later, after a long career in child care, the owner of the group home was to retire. She was frightened that if Sammy ended up in the local institution he was slated for, he would shrivel and die.She called me on Thanksgiving Day when she'd heard I was a veteran NICU and pediatric nurse and now certified as a medically fragile foster parent. Convinced Sammy wouldn't make it without a vital infusion of love and heartfelt dedication, she urged me to take him into my home. Several days later, he crossed the threshold of my doorway and into my heart, infusing me with the wonder of his survival.In less than three years, Sammy has moved from indwelling catheters, feeding tubes and numerous daily medications to being tube and medication free. He is a brilliant, cognitively gifted and active seven year old boy
who enjoys and celebrates,every aspect of his precious life Sammy has an exceptionally gentle soul.In 2007, my husband and I adopted Sammy, securing his promising future and enriching our lives beyond the expectations we mused over when we started this journey of safe-housing tender souls.Sammy is doing Wonderful he will turn 8 years old on the 31, He is Happy and Healthy.There are so many other little boys and girls just like Sammy. While we cannot adopt all of the little Sammy's in waiting, we have opened our home to heal as many and love as many as we can and help them move on to loving homes of their own; and so the birth of Angels in Waiting and our determination to affect as many lives as possible.Thanks for reading.Linda West Conforti RN ( Sammy's mommy)Founder, Angels in Waitingwww.angelsinwaitingUSA.org
Thank you for “Helping Save A Childhood”
The futures of our ANGELS IN WAITING program and the medically fragile foster care infants and children that we “Serve” is growing. We recently presented two large government grants to National Institute of Health, and recruited several more Nurses; moreover, we have over 10 Nurses waiting in the wings to be Foster parents for medically fragile foster care infants and children.
This means that many more medically fragile foster care children will have a childhood. These precious infants and children will benefit from having their own skilled Nurse as their foster parent. AIW Nurses make sure that their foster care infants and children’s best interests are well represented in the court, health care settings, and in the Department of Family and Children Services.
We are grateful to all our donors who have helped make this possible. Here are just a handful of the e-mails to Angels In Waiting from Nurses thought-out this Great Nation of ours…
Norwell, MA 02061
Comments = I would LOVE to be involved with your organization and
eventually become a foster Mom. I have been a NICU Nurse for 14 years and
have 3 children of my own. We have lots of room in our home and in our
hearts for another child / children. Please let me know how I may help.
bybee, TN 37713
Comments = I am an LPN with vent, mental retardations, cerebral palsy,
downs syndromes, deaf and blind experience and my husband and I have finished
our PATH classes and are wanting to adopt a medically fragile child/sibling
group. Our home study is complete and we are located in Tennessee. Thank you for showing us nurses this venue of caring for America’s special needs pediatric population from the comforts of our own home, God bless your Charity, and the children it serves.
Pueblo West, CO 81007
Comments = Would your program have a need for me even though I live in Colorado? Or could we start a satellite of your program here? Thanks
My name is Eric, I am a RN and a father of 2 little girls in Indiana. Ever since the birth of my first daughter, and recently my second - I am now of course a over protective father. :) The realization that the world can be cruel, especially to our infants and children, is so disturbing to me. My heart hurts to see other little ones in pain. I am writing because I stumbled across your site. And I wanted to say thank you for your compassion and god bless you for helping the forgotten little ones. I just wanted to say thank you with all my heart and let you know someone is thinking of you and your company today…One day, I too will be caring for medically fragile foster care infants and children from my home (once my daughters are older) you inspired my nursing career into this noble calling. Sincerely, Eric < > RN
Thank You For Helping Save a childhood!
Linda West- Conforti RN
Founder of Angels In Waiting
To Our Loyal and Dedicated Supporters,
In 2009, Within LA County Alone, More Than 268 Infants and Children Died in Foster Care, How Many More “Angels” Must We Send Back To Heaven?
Due to the shocking fact in the above statement, the founder of Angels In Waiting, Linda West- Conforti RN urgently sought the help from a well-known legal advocate for foster children within LA County. The activist was Linda Wallace- Pate, an Attorney at law who has represented foster children in LA County for over four decades. After she was privy to LA county's death toll for foster care infants and children. We quickly joined forces, and met with key people within the community to address these shocking statistics. Too many of these foster care infants, and children who were passed back into heaven, were special needs infants and children, these angels were placed into inappropriate foster homes, their foster parents were poorly trained and ill- equipped to address their special needs. They resided in neighborhoods that were greatly underserved by available county resources due to the new budget restraints. If Angels In Waiting’s Nurse program would have been utilized in LA County, the number of dead foster care infants and children would have been drastically reduced. Linda West -Conforti and Linda Wallace- Pate approached, UCLA, Charles Drew University and CDU School of Nursing with our lifesaving and innovative nursing outreach program. Both UCLA and Charles Drew University are now seeking federal grants, to implement our Angels In Waiting Nursing Recruitment Program into their community to address the dire needs of their forgotten population of foster care infants and children who reside in their own backyard.
Please, continue to support our noble cause. Furthermore, please place our widget from Global Giving's website onto your social networking site to help support our cause. For our goal is to implement our lifesaving program throughout our nation. Please, Together We Can Save Countless Childhoods" by promoting Angels In Waiting's Widgets.
“How many angels must we pass back to heaven, when on this earth we can help transform their precious lives today?
Linda West –Conforti RN
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