A Family with 55 Kids? No Problem for Neighborhood


Eight year old Aiden has autism.

Caring for him, as you’d expect, can be both tough and expensive.

At times, it can feel like he’s in a constant cycle of doctor’s visits, referrals for evaluations, and appointments for special services. Aiden’s mom, Eloise, is on the phone to Neighborhood a lot.

“You’re not going to get a complaint from me,” she immediately offers when asked what she thinks of the non-profit health insurer. Neighborhood always comes through, she says.

One example:  Aiden still needs to wear pull-ups – so Eloise was elated to discover that pull-ups, in this circumstance, are covered by Neighborhood. It’s a small victory for Eloise and her husband as they care for Aiden and his two brothers.

And his three sisters.

And his three other brothers.

Nine children in all, ranging from college-aged to toddler.

Eloise and her husband make it a point not to distinguish between their children who are biological and those who are adopted. There’s no time.

“I did foster care for 16 years,” Eloise explains. “I have had 55 children come and go; some stayed. Five stayed,” she says with a chuckle.

Eloise took every single child she fostered to the doctor, even those who shared her home for just a few weeks. Since Neighborhood is the only health plan in Rhode Island offering health insurance to kids in substitute care, she came to know the company very well. Today, all of her children are Neighborhood members. And while they’re all generally healthy, their needs are still many.

Arianna has stomach problems. Andrew is dyslexic. Antin has Asperger’s. Ana sees a therapist.

“And everything is covered from Neighborhood,” Eloise says.

She points to her youngest child, two-year-old Austin. At three days old, Austin was violently ill. He had a dairy allergy, but no one knew it yet.

“He had to get to a pediatrician right away,” Eloise recalls. “He was very sick from his formula. Neighborhood just said, ‘Take him, take him, we will rush this along. We will get what we need to do, just take him you have our word.’ And I have never had a bill. 55 children and I’ve never had anyone say you’re responsible for this bill.”

That story sounds familiar to Jackie Dowdy, Neighborhood’s Member Advocate. Jackie is a social worker by training; she spends her days troubleshooting problems for Neighborhood’s members. She has helped Eloise and countless others navigate what can be a complex health care system. Jackie’s also a foster- and adoptive parent herself.

“I know exactly what [Eloise] is talking about,” Jackie says. “We sometimes don’t know anything about these children. They show up in our homes because they need a place to stay. Neighborhood is a godsend. It really is.”

Eloise has come to learn that when she calls Neighborhood, there’s someone to empathize and to take action.

“When you have a child with some of the special needs that she has, you’ve got to have someone on the other end of the phone that really understands and someone that really cares,” Jackie says. “With Neighborhood, they have all of that. If your case manager isn’t available, then we have someone who is from our community outreach program and they will help them. They’re not out there on their own.”

Eloise is certain that without Neighborhood’s support, there is no way her family could have offered their home and their heart to some of Rhode Island’s most at-risk babies.

“Neighborhood? Again, I can’t say anything negative about them,” Eloise says.  “And I don’t use even a quarter of the services that they offer.”

It takes a special kind of family to offer temporary – and permanent – homes to babies and children with nowhere else to go. And it takes a special kind of health insurance company to make that possible.

“I’m just grateful to Neighborhood!” Eloise concludes.