Providing Support for the Physical, Emotional, and Spiritual Needs of Severely Ill Children and Their Families

A 1999 RWJF grant to launch a palliative care program with just 14 patients blossoms into a highly successful multi-year initiative that has served more than 900 patients and their families, as Debby Brauch, of SSM Cardinal Glennon Children's Medical Center in St. Louis, relates.

    • August 30, 2012

Footprints, a palliative-care program launched in 1999 with a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, assists children with serious, complex illnesses and their families. Footprints focuses on comfort, advocacy and support.

The lives of the children, who are cared for by SSM Cardinal Glennon Children's Medical Center, follow various paths. For many of them, medical interventions lead to good health. However, the journeys of others are impacted by serious, chronic or even terminal illnesses.

To address the unique needs of children with such illnesses, SSM Cardinal Glennon developed its Footprints Program, launching it in 1999 through a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. From serving 14 patients the first year, this palliative-care program now has served over 900 children and their families.

The multidisciplinary Footprints team helps to ensure quality of care and quality of life by providing support for the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of severely ill patients and their families. During children's hospitalizations, the team works with SSM Cardinal Glennon clinicians to coordinate care according to families' wishes.

When a child returns home, the Footprints team continues to coordinate his or her care between the medical center and community providers. The Footprints team even assists its families with expenses associated with children's extended hospitalizations, like family transportation costs or hotel charges. Sometimes, a child's medical expenses so deplete the family budget as to render families unable to cover their household expenses, like utilities, rent, and food. In such situations, Footprints assists with those vital needs, as well.

Further, when a Footprints patient succumbs to an illness, the family may not be able to afford funeral and burial expenses, but Footprints steps in again, enabling the family to honor a child's memory through appropriate final arrangements. In addition, three years ago, SSM Cardinal Glennon opened the Fetal Care Institute (FCI) to provide interventions for babies still in the womb. Because FCI families are in crisis due to their babies' health, the Footprints team now assists them, as well.

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