When a nurse worries for a pediatric patients well-being and alerts the Department of Family Services, its a difficult situation for everyone involved. Not only can the child not return home to get his or her belongings, but the child also is put in a new home with few personal effects.
To help those children get a fresh start, Kathleen Walz, RN, a staff nurse in the pediatric ED, and Courtney Ouellette, MS, CCLS, a child life specialist, started a program called the Pieces of Home Project at Boston Medical Center.
The program collects donations to make starter kits for children to take with them to their new homes. The kits, contained in child-size backpacks, include items such as a blanket, stuffed animal, toy, book, clothing, toiletries, and more. Each bag is created to be gender specific, and all the items inside are new. The bag goes with the children and gives them something that is theirs in a new space.The backpacks, which contain items such as a blanket, stuffed animal, toy, book, clothing, and toiletries, give children something that is theirs in a new place.
The bags show the patients that kids have a value, that we love them, and that they have a place, Walz says. DFS staff and foster families also appreciate the backpacks because they provide the children with necessities for a few days as they adjust to their new environment, Walz adds.
Walz says she remembers a pediatric patient who was thrilled with the bag and said, Now I can go back to school with a backpack. Its stories like those that tug at the heart, Walz says.
Since the program was started a year and a half ago, donations have trickled in through word of mouth, school projects, and a write up in the hospitals newsletter. A cabinet full of stuffed backpacks is ready when there is a need. About 60 backpacks are given out each year, Walz says, and infant bags are more common.
Until age 21, any child a healthcare worker at Boston Medical Center deems eligible can receive a backpack. The storage cabinet in the ED is accessible to all staff members at any time.
Because of the programs success, Walz says she would like to reach out to other facilities about starting their own programs or helping to stock backpacks. If interested, e-mail Walz or Ouellette at [email protected] or [email protected]
Any family can take a turn for the worse, Walz says. Were all at risk. We could all be standing there saying, Who can take my kid?
For a photo gallery from Boston Medical Center, visit http://www.nurse.com/galleries/public/index.html?galleryID=1021002.