Foster Care is a Passion for Amanda Perez
May is National Foster Care Month, which recognizes the important role that members from all parts of child welfare play in supporting children, youth and families.
MetroHealth social workers are known for their compassion and dedication, but for the children and foster parents who need the services of the Foster Care Medical Program (FCMP), Amanda Perez offers a kind of comfort and support that only comes through shared experience.
Over the last two years, Amanda, now a social worker with the FCMP, and her wife Candice have provided a home for three children in foster care. So, when she sits with families who care for some of the community's most vulnerable children, and she tells them that she understands, she means it.
"There are times when I notice that a foster parent is struggling with something, and it's a way for me to connect with them and say, 'I have been there,' " Amanda said. "And they say, 'Wait a minute. You're a foster parent, too?' And I help them by sharing the things I have learned when I have had to deal with the same issues. It's important for them to know that there are other people out there who are willing to just sit and talk. It's OK to ask for help, even if it's just to have somebody listen."
Amanda can relate to the challenges and uncertainties of being a foster parent. And she also knows the immeasurable joy.
"As a foster parent and as a social worker, it is extremely rewarding to be around these children and to see the resilience," she said. "To be able to see them grow and thrive even after the traumatic events that they had been going through. Yes, there are times when it isn't easy being a foster parent or a caregiver, but in the end, it is worth it because you are making sure that these children are cared for and happy and getting everything that they need."
MetroHealth has been the medical home for Cuyahoga County's children in foster care since 2013. Since that time, the number of children in county care has doubled, and there are not enough foster parents to take them in. Often, children are sent to homes across the state. Other times, they must stay in the Department of Children and Family Services offices in the Jane Edna Hunter Social Services Center. For more information about how to become a foster parent, click here.
The FCMP triage clinic, located near the Main Campus Emergency Department, is the first stop for children after they've been removed from their homes and before they are placed with foster families.
During this triage visit, the children are assessed, any injuries or illnesses are treated and medications are prescribed if needed. Within 30 days of being in their new home, the children return for a checkup to address any new issues and refill prescriptions. Follow-up and ongoing care is scheduled according to the child's age and medical needs. And if the children get sick, exams often can be scheduled for the same day. Following the triage visit, appointments are usually conducted in the Women and Children's Pavilion.
Amanda and the rest of the FCMP team – nurse practitioners, nurse care coordinators, care navigators and patient care specialists – are all dedicated to providing warmth and reassurance to their patients, who come to the clinic and foster care under traumatic circumstances. Sometimes that means providing a stuffed animal to comfort a frightened toddler or a sweatshirt to warm a shivering middle schooler. Items like these are always needed. For more information about how to donate, click here (and scroll to the bottom).
"Everyone who works in this clinic has an extreme passion for these kids," said Amanda, who heard of the FCMP around the time she became a foster parent and joined the team in 2022, after working in the MetroHealth Trauma Unit four and a half years. "Anything that they can do to help, they will. It's an honor to be a part of this team."
Founded in 1837, MetroHealth is leading the way to a healthier you and a healthier community through service, teaching, discovery, and teamwork. Cuyahoga County’s public, safety-net hospital system, MetroHealth meets people where they are, providing care through four hospitals, four emergency departments, and more than 20 health centers and 40 additional sites. Each day, our 8,000 employees focus on providing our community with equitable health care–through patient-focused research, access to care, and support services–that seeks to eradicate health disparities rooted in systematic barriers. For more information, visit metrohealth.org.