DALLAS (CBS 11 NEWS) – Children’s Medical Center will be home to the first health care program specifically for foster children in the state of Texas thanks to a $19 million donation.

The gift comes from the Rees-Jones Foundation to establish a Rees-Jones Center for Foster Care Excellence at Children’s. The idea is to get foster kids evaluation and treatment early in their lives so that they don’t end up in trouble.

“We start by bringing together this amazing team of statewide experts in child welfare, healthcare, research, and education. And we’ve mapped out that we’ll roll out three health care centers in three years,” said Dr. Anu Partap.

Partap says the center will begin operation immediately. She says children in foster care often have three times as many special needs and mental health issues as children who are not in the foster care system. She says early diagnosis and treatment could save the children from problems in the years ahead.

Four-year-old Alex and her adoptive parents, Ira and Valerie Kirkley, will be among the North Texans to benefit from the donation.  The Kirkleys adopted Alex, who was diagnosed with cerebral palsy at one year old, and her brothers before knowing about the physical and emotional struggles the children face.

Dr. Partap says six thousand North Texas children live in foster care right now, with a new one entering foster care every 30 minutes.

“Finding a home for them is priority, but once they’re there, everyone needs a hand in helping them recover,” she said.

Medical and social treatment for children who have been neglected and abused is critical while children are in supportive foster care.  Children’s Medical Center will now offer more of that care.

“We’re putting in place programs and services that will help our kids recover and heal, change how they think about their futures, get them back on track because they have lost their childhoods along the way,” said Dr. Partap.

As families like the Kirkley’s know, children who come from abused and neglected environments, need specialized attention from doctors and nurses.

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