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Nonprofit Helps Parents Navigate Children’s Medical Needs

Writer / Shelly Sack
Photography Provided

Having a sick child is a scary time in parents’ lives. TyiaLynn Scott knows this all too well.

“One of my children, now 22, was diagnosed with internal bleeding and being medically complex,” Scott says. “It took me 10 years to navigate items such as fighting denied medical claims, and I chose homeschooling because I was unaware of 504 education plans available. We had so many trips to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital and without a specific diagnosis, it can make the path even more difficult.”Critically Loved

For these reasons, the former consultant in the for-profit business world felt a calling to establish Critically Loved, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. Its focus is providing assistance to parents for managing their children’s health care, parental peer support, professional family counseling, and even simple care packages for parents who need to stay at the hospital for their children’s care.

“I didn’t want parents to struggle like I did,” Scott says. “I wanted to help parents practically in areas such as school and medical billing. It’s emotionally draining to be a caregiver.”

As the executive director, Scott founded Critically Loved in 2015 and worked on building its resources during her spare time before moving to full-time status as a formal nonprofit in 2017. The number of families helped has steadily grown each year since, with 2021 numbers alone showing 651 families benefited.

“Families have been involved with one service or more, but we’re happy to service them any way we can,” she says.

The main service parents benefit from is spiritual support, in the form of both group support in the community as well as online in a five-to-six-week program.

“There’s a lot of anger and emotions that come with managing a child’s health care,” Scott says. “They also grieve for expectations they had for their child. Group support is the heartbeat of what we do. A lot of our group leaders are past participants. They went through group support and we’ve paid for counseling, and then they went on to become leaders. It’s amazing to see them get healing and come full-circle.”

One such example is Amanda Hutchison. “Critically Loved came into my life during one of the hardest times my family had ever been through,” Hutchison says. “I was able to find friendship, fellowship, comfort, peace and healing, thanks to their Bible study and through the resources extended. Critically Loved has given me a family.”

Hutchison also went on to serve as a Bible study co-leader for two years.

Critically Loved offers a wide range of other resources as well, all at no cost to the families, who are often overburdened with medical-related expenses.

Critically Loved“All of our services are at no charge to families,” Scott says. “They are already overwhelmed with caring for their child and taking off work. We don’t want to add to their burden.”

Community events to connect families range from family picnics to Moms Night Out for mothers with special-needs children.

The professional counseling is a way to provide an emotional outlet to both parents and children.

“[Child medical care] affects the whole family and the divorce rate is higher,” Scott points out.

Another focus is inclusion education at Louisville-area schools, to teach children how to appreciate differences in their peers and help them overcome obstacles. This program is provided by Cincinnati-based partner company Skool Aid.

When parents need to stay with their child at a Louisville hospital, Scott says many come from other cities, and often unexpectedly due to a medical situation. Critically Loved steps in with hospital comfort bags, containing items such as egg-crate mattress toppers, fuzzy socks, lotion, age-appropriate books, thank-you cards, plastic storage baggies, deodorant, laundry detergent and tissues. All these items are intended to help relieve some of the stress for parents and keep their costs down during difficult times.

While Critically Loved is supported by 61 pediatric health providers and nonprofit partners both local and national, fundraising events are important to keep the no-cost services in place. Scott says she spent a lot of time visiting other executive directors to learn fundraising tips. A major fundraiser, called Over the Edge, includes rappelling off the Hyatt Regency Louisville. Blood drives have also been used in the past and Scott plans to start that program up in the aftermath of the pandemic.

Critically Loved is overseen by a board of directors, employs two full-time employees and one part-time employee, and receives support from hundreds of volunteers.Critically Loved

For more information, visit criticallyloved.org, and to connect for volunteering opportunities, email admin@criticallyloved.org.

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