Angels in Waiting – Meet Linda West-Conforti
As a NICU nurse in southern California, Linda West-Conforti, RN, began to notice an alarming pattern among her patients. These infants and children were leaving various Southern California hospitals – many with ongoing medical needs – but a growing number of them were not going home. It was a problem that led her to a major life change.
“I saw an increase in infants and children being discharged to ill-educated and poorly support foster care parents, nursing institutions or group homes for the medically fragile – these children became wards of the state and had no true home,” she said. “They are harder to place with the average foster parent because of their special needs and often become forgotten members of the system, left alone in hospitals and institutions inevitably designated as a failure to thrive. As a nurse, I was determined to try to make a difference in this growing population of America’s forgotten children.”
When West-Conforti researched the services available for these children, she came across a unique but dormant opportunity for nurses. In California, and throughout our nation, nurses can become independent nurse providers for foster children, billing Medi-Cal for their in-home nursing hours. This blend of nursing and foster parenting meets a child’s need for the love and care found only at home, while also offering nurses a unique way to serve this pediatric population.
West-Conforti was inspired to create her own network of nurses. Based in Lake Arrowhead, California, Angels in Waiting was established in 2005 as a non-profit organization committed to moving medically fragile foster care children into private residences under the care of RNs and LVNs as their foster parents.
“It’s really wonderful to be able to work from home. My child has an RN at her side, but she’s still able to have fun and have a life,” explained Charla Kingsley, RN, at Loma Linda University Medical Center and one of the nurses involved with Angles in Waiting. “It’s difficult for a foster group home to be able to take a group of sick children out shopping, to the movies and other places – while it’s a good place for children outside of the hospital, it’s still not the same as an Angel In Waiting home.” Because we are limited to two medically fragile foster care children, our children have 24-7 “nurse-mommies,” and these precious children are able to experience the joy of going shopping, out to the movies, and virtually have a normal family life. Moreover, 90% of our angle-nurses adopt the infants and children in their care, thus ending their time in foster care forever.
These children have only experienced transient relationships as they move in and out of hospitals and group homes. Nurses with Angels in Waiting are able to provide these children with the joy of a stable family life – something no child should miss out on.
“It’s a much better environment to be with a family at home, because the child gets a consistency of care – one trained licensed person putting together their IV’s and medications each day – combined with the love and life of a conventional family,” West-Conforti said. “This is an opportunity to truly impact a child’s life and, in essence, save their childhood. The experience also deeply impacts and benefits our own lives.”