Voices in the wilderness: Co-location meeting the needs of children in protective care.
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OBJECTIVE: To explore how access to a family medicine clinic co-locating with the Children's Aid Society (CAS) of Hamilton in Ontario helped meet the unique needs of children in care. DESIGN: Qualitative research using semistructured face-to-face and telephone interviews. SETTING: The CAS of Hamilton. PARTICIPANTS: Nineteen foster parents. METHODS: Stakeholders were invited to participate with flyers posted in the clinic, notices that were mailed to foster parents, personal invitations that were distributed during clinic visits, and an internal memo that was distributed to the CAS staff. Informed consent and assent where appropriate was obtained before an interview was started. Interviews were audiorecorded when and where feasible, transcribed, and subsequently underwent inductive, thematic analysis. Common themes evolved by consensus. MAIN FINDINGS: Foster parents valued the family medicine clinic co-locating with the CAS. The co-location helped children in care to know that there were others in similar circumstances. Foster parents learned from and shared parenting skills with one another, which resulted in developing confidence in the care they provided. The clinic became a neutral place for children in care, foster parents, and birth parents. The clinic team gathered the children's complete health records and was responsible for sharing this information when appropriate. CONCLUSION: Access to a family medicine clinic designed specifically for children in care that co-located with the CAS enhanced not only the planning, management, and evaluation of care, but also provided a consistency that was not found in other parts of the children's lives; this helped generate trusting relationships over time. The co-location provided a strong spoke in the circle of care.
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