Caring For Children With Special Needs

By | 2022-02-03T17:26:55-05:00 January 14th, 2008|0 Comments

A three-month old boy was born with a cleft palate and his pediatrician immediately referred his family to Children’s Village in Yakima, Wash., where he could receive treatment. Diane Patterson, RN, MSN, director of Children’s Village, warmly greeted the family upon their arrival and explained they would be meeting with a team of specialists to create a plan of care for their little boy.

Children’s Village is a unique partnership that was created 10 years ago, the dream of Washington pediatrician Don McGinnis, who envisioned a facility that would serve children with special health care needs and their families. The village partners with over 30 different local agencies to provide a wide range of health and support services. To date, they have served more than 16,000 children from newborns to age 19.

“Prior to the opening of Children’s Village, families in Central Washington would have to drive [more than] 150 miles to Seattle to see a pediatric specialist,” Patterson said.

At Children’s Village, physicians from pediatric specialties including cardiology, neurology, orthopedics, endocrinology and other areas visit the village several times a month to see patients who have been referred by their primary care doctors.

“We started out with six doctors who would serve in our specialty clinics and we now have over 100,” said Joann Jennings, RN, who coordinates the specialty clinics.
For more complex conditions such as cleft palate and autism, patients are seen by a team of specialists that may include a plastic surgeon, social worker, speech/language pathologist, nurse, dietician, orthodontist and pediatrician.

Children’s Village provides families with a number of support services, in addition to medical care.

“Often, when a child is diagnosed with a condition such autism or Down’s Syndrome, a family can feel very alone and isolated,” Jennings said. “We have families with older children who can mentor families who are new to our programs and we also offer family education and support groups for both parents and siblings.”

Children’s Village has an active parent volunteer group who sponsors a variety of social events throughout the year including organized sports, Saturday night get-togethers for children 12 and older and childcare center.

Because health insurance pays for less than 30 percent of the services provided at Children’s Village, the Yakima Valley Memorial Foundation provides more than $625,000 each year. Other funds are donated through private and community members.

Reaching Out to Families

Nurses also go into the community to visit with first-time mothers who may be concerned about their child’s development.

Marilyn VanOostrum, RN, BSN, serves as the supervisor for the Children’s Village Infant and Toddler Early Intervention Program.

“For children birth to three years old, our program provides invaluable screening, therapy and in-home visits for behavior, speech, occupational therapy and more to help children who are experiencing different kinds of developmental delays,” VanOostrum said.

Children’s Village also contracts with local school districts to provide early intervention and parent education services. One school program uses puppets that educate children about disabilities and developmental delays at school assemblies.

Looking Ahead

As the nurses at Children’s Village celebrate their 10th anniversary this year, they can’t help but look ahead to the next decade. Their unique model of care has drawn interest from others who hope to emulate their comprehensive approach.

Patterson said the Children’s Village in the future will likely add additional space to their building and also hire more nurses.

“The village is a wonderful working environment for nurses,” she said. “If I’m having a bad day, I’ll sit in our lobby and witness such incredible courage, passion and determination among our young patients and their families. It’s a very empowering place to work.”


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