The challenges faced by immigrants in our country aren’t solely those of older generations. This isn’t just your grandparent’s or great-grandparents’ story. Every day children come to America in search of a better life, leaving their families behind. When a young person enters the U.S. as an unaccompanied minor, the complexities mount. Without a legal guardian, an unaccompanied minor may be unable to receive necessary health services, left to struggle to find their way without the benefits associated with good mental and physical health.
Miguel is a young man who arrived in America without his family. His father, Juan, lives in El Salvador. At the time of Miguel’s departure, Juan signed over guardianship to one relative. But when Miguel left that home and went to live with another relative in a different state, Juan had to sign new guardianship papers. When the third move occurred, Juan couldn’t file the paperwork. He simply couldn’t afford the expense of completing the legal documents and mailing them from one country to another.
When we met Miguel, he needed mental health services. Without a legal guardian he was in danger of not receiving the necessary care that he required. Fortunately, with our strong partnership with PUSD and Families in Transition, we were able to step in and help Miguel navigate the complicated MediCal system and get the care he needed. We celebrate Miguel’s opportunity to thrive, while also taking to heart an important reminder. Just because a child enters our community as an unaccompanied minor, we cannot assume that their parent has abdicated their parental responsibilities. The truth is much more complicated.
Recently, our insurance advocate was helping Carla, a mother of four, apply for Medi-Cal insurance for her whole family. While she was in the office, Carla received a call from her babysitter. Her youngest child, Nina was complaining of abdominal pain on her right side. Carla was distressed, not only did she have to worry about Nina but also how to pay for an expensive hospital visit. Thanks to Young & Healthy’s direct health services programs, Nina was able to be seen at the ER at no cost to the family. Nina was diagnosed with appendicitis and spent the night in the hospital. Fortunately, because it was caught early and Nina had quickly come to the hospital for treatment, surgery wasn’t necessary and Nina’s appendicitis could be treated with medication. Crisis averted!
It’s Like Peeling an Onion
So much of Young & Healthy’s work is like peeling an onion. We start off with one thing and then as we reach out to families to offer support there is layer after layer of need.
We routinely do oral health screenings for little ones and then call the families if it looks like there is a tooth that needs attention. First grader Olivia had a little cavity and we called her mom, Sasha. Sasha thanked us for the alert, but she had a dentist and would take Olivia there to have the cavity filled. Sasha didn’t sound well herself and the staff asked if she was ok. Sasha had Covid and was getting better and although she didn’t need help with that, she hesitated—there was something. Her dad, Olivia’s grandpa, was sick—very sick. In fact, he was terminally ill. She understood that his health options were limited but she was worried that he might not be able to continue his cancer care at all. Her dad, Andres had always been self employed and paid out of pocket for his health insurance. Now he was sick, unable to work and unable to keep up with the insurance premiums. Our insurance advocate marked his case as urgent and immediately began looking into getting him affordable perhaps even free health insurance. The end of life is challenging at best—but now, perhaps, Andres will spend less time worrying about money and more time soaking in the love of his family. It started with a little cavity but led us to help so much more.
One-Size Does Not Fit All
Clare was absent from school a lot. Her grandmother said it was her allergies but the health clerk at her school suspected something else and referred her to Young & Healthy. You see, Clare also has asthma, and although she uses an inhaler, she had never been seen by an asthma specialist. Grandma had used the resources that she had available to her… an over the counter inhaler, but inhalers are not a one-size fits all solution. An appointment with a volunteer asthma doctor was all she needed to get the right medicines to manage her asthma. It is important that each child receives treatment before a breathing crisis occurs. We are grateful to our volunteer doctor for helping Clare and her grandmother. While we know we cannot prevent asthma, we can help children get the specialized that they need to prevent a crisis.
Out of the Mouths of Babes
Kindergarten dental screenings are one of our lesser-known programs. We link volunteer dentists with whole classrooms of kindergarteners. They visit the class and do a visual dental screening to check to see if any of the little ones need dental care. During one of these visits, Marcus, a curly haired little guy with a big smile proudly announced, “I am going to the dentist tomorrow.”
“Oh, do you know the name of your dentist?” asked Dr. Lucas.
“Oh yes, Dr. Cavity,” he said confidently.
Without missing a beat, the dentist replied, “Oh yes, I know Dr. Cavity, he is an excellent dentist.” To which Marcus answered, “It is a she.”
“Oh yes, that Dr. Cavity” said Dr. Lucas, and our Program Manager jumped in with, “I am familiar with her work.”
The giggles continued for the rest of the afternoon. The magic of connecting with children is one of the very best things about Young & Healthy.
Happy summer and we hope you get to giggle with a kiddo—it is just the best.