With a struggling economy, it can often times be difficult for parents to have access to insurance to provide their children with the proper healthcare they need. It is very important for children’s health needs to be taken care of while they are adolescents because this is the time when children go through some of their most important growth stages. Kid Smiles is a non-profit dental organization that seeks to combat the oral disparities that children in low-income communities are facing. It was started in 2001 with its first office built in Philadelphia, after opening another office there, they decided to branch out to another city of highly deserving, highly child populated city, Washington, D.C.
According to the National Academy for State Health Policy, although the oral health of the nation overall has improved dramatically in the last 50 years, one segment of society has been left behind and that’s the people with low incomes, minorities and immigrants, those wit special health care needs and people who live in rural areas. Children are encouraged to have their first dental visit within six months after seeing the child’s first tooth but sadly a new report released shows that nearly 12 million children in the United States experience serious barriers to getting oral health care because of their lack of insurance coverage, cost and difficulty finding providers who accept their insurance.
Working to Improve Oral Healthcare
Kid Smiles was created address the need of black oral health care in the inner city community. The design of the organization is to not only to treat patients but also to instill preventative measures with oral health education and screenings. John Norman, operational director for the D.C. office explained how it works. We are a non-profit community based organization that provides comprehensive care; the oral health screenings are done both internally and externally. Externally we go to daycare centers recreation centers, schools and provide free oral health education and screenings. There is an oral hygienist and educator that goes out to these locations to provided those services.
The D.C. location was established in 2010 through a 1.5 million dollar grant from the D.C. Department of Health and a partnership with KIPP Academy DC. There was a heavy disparity in Ward 7, which is why they chose to bring their offices here. It was important to this organization to not wait for the community to come to them but to instead reach out and pull them in. Aside from going out to the schools and recreation centers, they actually get out into the D.C. streets of Ward 7 and walk the neighborhoods going door to door to inform the community about the services that they provide, and according to parent Juanita Lartan, this method has clearly worked. ” They came to my sons school for the routine check-up and I kind of liked the way they presented themselves and I got a phone call maybe a couple weeks after he had the cleaning done at the school and they asked me about his teeth and how he enjoyed it, and I said when he came home he was excited. Since I was looking for a new dentist, I decided to bring him back here”.
Kid Smiles D.C. operates as a normal practice in the clinic. They accept mostly all insurances and once a month they have a day where they service those without insurance. According to John Norman, 25% of the children that have come into the office had never been to a dentist prior to that visit, and about 30% of the patients they service haven’t been to the dentist in the past 3 years. A unique factor of this organization is that as of July 2011, they have started providing dental services for the parents as well, in many cases, this is the first dental experience for those parents. Incorporating them helps to get the parents encouraged to better their dental care as well as their child’s.
Celebrating One Year of Service
Kid Smiles celebrated one year in existence on December 1st. A year in, the organization is proud to say that they are steadily expanding their services. They have increased the amount of schools and daycare centers that they are going into. Norman says he often hears the same statements from parents, “I’ve always wanted this but I didn’t know how to get it”. Juanita Lartnan says she appreciates Kid Smiles, ” I think its great, its in the heart of the community and for low income residents they do have somewhere where we all can come to and its not out of our way When asked what the biggest challenge has been thus far, he says is getting parents to understand how they can’t miss dental check-ups. They currently have a no show rate of about 40%. This has led them to increase their internal dental education and preventative services in the community. In January, they plan to set up a clinic inside of a school, for a month at a time, where they can service children throughout the school day, making it easier for parents and children since they won’t have to miss school to be serviced. They would be able to cover about six schools a semester regardless of if they have insurance or not.
The UnBall Event
Increasing services means a greater need for increased funding. Kid Smiles has put together a fundraising event for the month of December called the UnBall. The UnBall is a way of reaching out to the community and saying instead of paying the money to buy a dress, get your hair done, buy a ticket and come to the event, they are instead asking that you donate the money that you would have used for charity event to Kid Smiles. Development Director Kelly Resigner says they started telling people about the campaign in October, they sent out about 1000 printed cards as well as an email blast to get people excited about the event. In regards to setting a fundraising goal, Resigner had great news to share, ” We set a goal of $25,000 for the whole campaign and already we have raised slightly over $50,000 so far and we’re thrilled. The average gift has been about $127″.
Kid Smiles for the Future
In January, Kid Smiles plan to set up mobile clinics inside schools for a month at a time, where they can service children throughout the school day, making it easier for parents and children since they won’t have to miss school to be serviced. They would be able to cover about six schools a semester regardless of if they have insurance or not. But for now, Kid Smiles continues to keep smiles on both children and their parents faces. “I think its great, it’s in the heart of the community and for low income residents they do have somewhere where we all can come to and it’s not out of our way.”