Family Justice Partnership: A Medical Legal Partnership Making the Case for Kids at CHOP

By Kara Finck, Lydia Gottesfeld, | January 18, 2019

Emerging Leader Fellow Leigh Wilson and her PolicyLab colleagues discuss lessons learned from a medical legal partnership with the University of Pennsylvania Law School’s Interdisciplinary Child Advocacy Clinic and Community Legal Services to support patients and their families with critical legal needs.

Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) pediatricians provide high-quality, evidence-based and compassionate patient care. Yet, for CHOP’s most vulnerable patients top-notch medical care may not be enough to ensure children can thrive and be healthy. Let’s take Sean* as an example. Sean is a 10-year-old child with severe disabilities that keep him bedbound and dependent on medical devices to stay alive. During a routine home visit, his social worker and resident physician learned that the gas company had shut off his family’s heat, and that the family had lost their health insurance and SNAP benefits (food stamps) due to some income changes.

Research has shown that social determinants of health—the conditions in which we live, work and play—put children like Sean at risk for poor health outcomes. In practice, CHOP pediatricians know that there are certain things their patients need to be healthy that they cannot fix such as safe housing free of lead, mold and pests; stable utility access to keep families warm in the winter and cool in the summer; and steady household income to ensure children have access to food and basic necessities. That’s where Medical Legal Partnerships can play a significant role.

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