DCF, Other Agencies Work to Get Dental Care for Foster Children

Nadia Sorocka
Sun Sentinel
August 9, 2012

Nadia Sorocka nsorocka@tribune.com

August 8, 2012

According to the Department of Children and Families, each month in the last year an average of 48 children in Palm Beach County have been removed from unsafe homes and have come into its custody as well as the lead foster care agency, Child and Family Connections, Inc.

Many of the children have not received dental care due to years of parental neglect or are in need of routine care, said Elisa Cramer, community development administrator with the Florida Department of Children and Families Circuit 15 - Palm Beach County.

"The state law requires that children in foster care be seen for regular dental check-ups every six months," she said, adding that of the 900 children currently in out-of-home care in Palm Beach County, only about half of them have received dental service in the last six months.

"One of our challenges in providing dental care to foster children is the lack of dentists in Palm Beach County who accept Medicaid," Cramer said. "This is actually a problem across the state."

Recognizing the connection between oral health and overall health, the DCF, Child and Family Connections, Inc. and the Palm Beach County Division of the Children's Home Society of Florida say they hope local dentists will help them meet each child's needs for a healthy and safe childhood.

"The state of a child's teeth affects their overall health," said Bill Quinn, director of health services with FoundCare. "If we can prevent cavities in baby teeth, we are better able to prevent cavities in their adult teeth."

The groups have partnered with FoundCare Health Center, 2330 S. Congress Ave., in Palm Springs, which has offered up its dental clinic for monthly dental fairs in August, September and October, specifically for children in foster care.

"We saw this as a great way to expand services to the county," Quinn said.

FoundCare has a fully equipped dental clinic, which they currently are working to raise funds to run, Quinn said.

And this is why the organizations are asking for local dentist volunteers to provide pro-bono care.

"We need a total of 12 dentists to volunteer each month," Cramer said.

FoundCare is a nonprofit, full-service community health center for Palm Beach County residents with limited or no health insurance. The clinics will be available for children in foster care from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Aug. 18, Sept. 15 and Oct. 20.

To find out how to volunteer or support the program contact Steve Bardy, executive director, Children's Home Society - Palm Beach Division at 561-868-4330 or stephen.bardy@chsfl.org.