UT Health San Antonio School of Nursing receives $4 million to expand foster care health services

Foster family speaking with health provider

Contact: Steven Lee, 210-450-3823, lees22@uthscsa.edu

Contributed and written by Rosanne Fohn

The UT Health San Antonio School of Nursing has received $4 million to expand health care services to foster care youth and their families.

The four-year Health Resources and Services Administration grant will fund access to community-based health care for foster care children and their families in 28 counties in Central Texas and the Hill Country, the same area served by the state’s Public Health Region 8. HRSA is an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Karen Walker Schwab, PhD, APRN, CPNP-PC, PMHS, is principal investigator of the grant. She directs pediatric services for the School of Nursing’s Wellness 360 health care practice that offers primary and pediatric care to the public.

Wellness 360 has provided health care for foster children and their families in the San Antonio area since spring 2018. In 2019, the practice received the Foster Care Center of Excellence designation.

“We developed our grant application with Texas’ new community-based model of foster care in mind,” Schwab said.

Karen Walker Schwab, PhD, APRN

In Texas’ traditional foster care model, children could be placed in foster homes anywhere in the state. The state’s new, community-based model gives local communities more flexibility in meeting the needs of foster youth through creativity and innovation, according to the community’s strengths and resources. For example, priorities include keeping foster children in their own communities, placing siblings together in the same home and having children attend their same schools to promote stability and maintain the child’s support system.

Likewise, Schwab’s new program will focus on a community approach to health care, incorporating HRSA’s priorities. The program includes:  

  • Improving access to health care in underserved areas by developing four community hubs in the region for foster care children and their families.
  • Integrating foster care objectives into the School of Nursing’s curriculum to familiarize nursing students with providing care to this vulnerable population.
  • Developing the curriculum by incorporating telehealth services, social determinants of health, health literacy, community outreach and mobile medical events while offering clinical learning experiences for graduate and undergraduate students.
  • Providing education and support for registered nurses and community partners in the region through a School of Nursing virtual platform.

“We are thrilled that our School of Nursing can expand services for this vulnerable group,” said Sonya Renae Hardin, PhD, MBA/MHA, CCRN, NP-C, FAAN, dean of the School of Nursing. “As educators and nurse practitioners focused on holistic and comprehensive care, we are uniquely qualified to serve the needs of foster youth and their families in this underserved region. We hope that by exposing our nursing students to the great need for health care in the rural setting, and especially the needs of children in foster care, that some of our graduates may consider practicing in these settings.”

“Nurse-led practices also provide these services more economically, stretching taxpayer dollars.” Schwab added. “We anticipate opening our first hub in the fall, possibly in collaboration with SJRC, one of our current foster care partners, on their campus in Bulverde. The plan is to open the three other hubs within 12 to 18 months.”

UT Health San Antonio, South Texas’ largest research university, has an annual research portfolio of $350 million and a Department of Education designation as a Hispanic-Serving Institution. Its School of Nursing offers five academic programs, consisting of the BSN, DNP and PhD degrees and specialty certificates, and is dedicated to fostering diversity, equity and inclusion in the nursing profession. With first-generation college students representing one-third of its enrollment, the school operates a growing patient-care practice that provides primary and acute care at its Wellness 360 clinics, both on campus and at a variety of community partner sites. To learn more, visit https://www.uthscsa.edu/academics/nursing.

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