Sammy Our Founder Son & Founder of SammysBill.org
That call from the special medical placement social worker almost always starts the same way, "Hi Mary, there is a baby that might be a good match for your family…. would you be interested in meeting her?" My last one was not any different.
The social worker attempted to summarize the story of Baby Sara, but about 2 minutes into the call, I knew little Sara had to come to our home. I knew she was a perfect match for our family. I answered yes. Sara needed a safe home. She needed to be cuddled and a good dose of love.
Most importantly, she needed a nurse. Her recovery was going to be a long road with potential twists and turns. She needed me.
Sara was an 11-month-old little girl who had been in the children's hospital for two months prior to the call. She had suffered non-accidental trauma, which is a nice way to describe physical abuse and violence. Sara suffered from brain damage from abusive head trauma, multiple fractured ribs, a fractured femur, and a lacerated liver. She was severely malnourished and very underweight. This precious angel had spent three weeks in the intensive care unit and four weeks in acute rehab. She was finally ready to be discharged from the hospital after two head surgeries to evacuate fluid and several abdominal surgeries. She had hydrocephalus. She had Incision wounds on her scalp that needed daily cleaning and dressing. She had lost almost all milestones. Sara could no longer sit independently or support her head upright. Her head was large in comparison to the rest of her tiny body. She could no longer suck on a bottle and was dependent on G-tube for nutrition. Sara was behind on her vaccines. Her recovery would require an intense, well-coordinated rehab program involving several specialists and therapists, including neurologists, gastrologists, and rehab medicine.
Before the trauma, Sara was developing like any other baby. She was crawling, starting to pull up on furniture to stand, bubbling and giggling. She was feeding from a bottle.
After Sara was born, she was discharged to her father. The mother had tested positive for drugs throughout the pregnancy. The father did not have a stable home and was staying in a motel. An altercation between the parents led to violence, and Sara was removed from the unsafe environment and placed with an aunt. Sara's abuse happened while in this first foster placement with a relative.
It sounds like a straightforward placement of a vulnerable child to a foster home, right?
Well, it has not always been so. It was not always a particular medical placement social worker calling a home of a pediatric nurse. It certainly was not straightforward 18 years ago when Sammy was born at 23 weeks gestation. But, it's nothing short of a miracle that he survived. And no, there was nothing like a law enabling preferential placement of medically fragile children to foster parents who are nurses!
Linda Conforti, founder and CEO of Angels In Waiting (AIW), did not get such a call. She just happened to be a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) nurse who was friends with the owner of the group home where Sammy was placed after 20 months of hospitalization. However, the events surrounding Sammy's health and adoption by Linda's family led to an epiphany. She knew that she needed to find other dedicated nurses to help her save as many medically fragile foster babies as possible, and Angels In Waiting was born.
Before AIW, it was incredibly difficult for CPS Social Workers to find appropriate foster placement homes for medically fragile children who need nursing care outside of the hospital. As a result, this led to prolonged hospital stays and placement into institutions. AIW recruits nurses who can provide both parental and nursing care to the children in a loving home until they are medically stable or find an appropriate permanent home. Many of these extraordinary nurses end up adopting the children. It has taken the focused and persistent advocacy work of Angels in Waiting to create a law that requires preferential placement of a medically fragile child to a foster home of a nurse. As a result, the medical social workers from the counties represented get access to the certified nurse foster parents that are licensed to care for these vulnerable children. AIW has collaborated with adoption and foster care agencies and the department of children and social services. To recruit nurses, train them, and create a system where the most vulnerable of babies who fall into the unfortunate state of needing to be in a foster home are matched and preferentially placed in a home of a nurse who is a parent as well as the child's nurse.
AIW, being a 501C3 organization, sorely depends on donors to support the ongoing recruitment, training, advocating, and support of nurses willing to be foster parents. But, unfortunately, they are often forced to take leave or stop working altogether to care for these children.
Your donation will be utilized in the ongoing projects that include and are not limited to:
Expansion of AIW's program is needed in more counties throughout California. We are recruiting and training more nurses. Marin County, located in the Northwest part of the San Francisco Bay area, has reached out and requested more nurses. Your donation will allow more nurses to confidently answer "yes" when that call comes.