(LINCOLN) – When we first met Eloise three years ago, we were impressed.
At the time, she explained that during the 16 years she and her husband were foster parents they had welcomed 55 children into their Lincoln home.
“Some stayed,” she said, smiling. “Five stayed.”
That’s five adopted foster children, in addition to the couple’s four biological children.
Her house more than full, Eloise calmly told us, “I did foster for care for 16 years, but I just stopped doing foster care.”
We were playfully skeptical. And, sure enough, when we went back to visit in the spring of 2019, Eloise laughed out loud when we reminded her what she’d said in 2016.
“I probably said it, because I said [the same thing] seven years ago. And then, I didn’t stop! So, I don’t know if I’ll ever stop. It’s just something I like doing. I just have a passion for helping kids.”
Over the past few years, Eloise and her husband have taken in about half-a-dozen more foster children, all through DCYF’s emergency program. Through that program, Eloise offers a temporary home to little kids during what’s probably the toughest time in their young lives.
They tend to arrive in the middle of the night – with medical needs – and Eloise springs into action.
“I don’t have their health insurance card when they come; they are removed that night. It’s after hours that DCYF is not open, when they come to me. And they come with nothing,” she explains. “So I will call Neighborhood and I will say, ‘What’s their number, who is their pediatrician, who can I take them to, who should I take them to?’ and they’ll [help] me.”
Rita Towers, a Member Advocate at Neighborhood, says it’s no surprise at all that Eloise doesn’t quite seem able to flip that switch and shut off the part of her that is willing to open her home and her life to children in crisis.
“I think that’s just her personality,” Towers explains. “It’s who she is, and I don’t know that she’ll ever shut it off. She’ll probably be one of those 70-year-old foster parents who will still be taking kids into her home. That’s what I see when I see Eloise.”
As the only health insurer Rhode Island that covers children in substitute care, there’s a lot riding on Neighborhood’s ability to get this all right. And, Eloise says, Neighborhood delivers.
“I know I can call Neighborhood and they will give me the information that I need,” she says. “They will give me the numbers that I need, or they will even call [the foster child’s] provider and say, this is the number and she’s going to bring the child over. Neighborhood is easy. Easy to work with, easy to access different things that I need.”
That peace of mind of is priceless for a mom like Eloise. Almost every one of her children has at least one medical diagnosis, so having a health plan that understand her needs is vital.
That’s part of the reason why Eloise has also started mentoring other foster families, showing them how Neighborhood can help make the process easier.
“We have a lot of kinship families, you know, grandmas and aunts, and they’ll be speaking different languages, Portuguese or something,” she says. “And when you call [Neighborhood’s] member services line, they can give you a representative who speaks that language, so it’s easy. And a lot of the materials come in the mail in Spanish and English, so that’s a plus, too, for our foster families.”
As if she’s not busy enough with all that, Eloise has also started serving as a volunteer on Neighborhood’s Children’s Member Advisory Committee. That’s where she can tell Neighborhood exactly what’s working and what isn’t, offering suggestions for the health insurer to keep in mind as it continues to provide access to high-quality, affordable care for all Rhode Islanders.
Eloise says the very existence of Neighborhood’s Member Advisory Committees proves the company cares about its members.
“I just think that is bringing it down to our level, like we are important to them. That’s what it makes me feel like, like we want to know what you are thinking and what your thoughts are,” she says. “And I’m just an average person. I’m just a foster mom.”
Towers, who helps to organize that committee, marvels at Eloise’s longstanding and ongoing commitment to Rhode Island’s children.
“I just think it’s a great collaboration,” Towers says. “It’s funny when people say, ‘You know, I could never do it without Neighborhood.’ But Neighborhood couldn’t do it without her. I think it’s amazing.”