Child Health Advocacy Program Receives $1 Million Endowment

Thanks to a $1 million gift from the Richmond-based Burford Leimenstoll Foundation, the University of Virginia Child Health Advocacy Program will be able to expand its legal aid and referral services for families whose children are treated at the University of Virginia Children’s Hospital.

The Child Health Advocacy Program is a collaborative effort among the Law School, the University of Virginia Children’s Hospital, and the Legal Aid Justice Center. Through the program, caregivers at the Children’s Hospital refer families to staff and law students for legal aid with non-medical needs such as landlord, benefit, and child support issues, as well as others identified during the course of their medical care. The program also assists with emergency funds to help families through crises and with referrals to appropriate community service agencies. As part of the program, UVA Children’s Hospital physicians, social workers, nurses and other health care providers are trained to identify difficult non-medical issues during check-ups and hospital admissions. Last year the program served approximately 200 families across Virginia.

“This very generous gift will allow the Child Health Advocacy Program to continue to develop over the long-term and will help to fund the attorney supervision necessary to involve more law student volunteers with the medical-legal team as they work to improve child health outcomes," said Kimberly Emery, Law School assistant dean for pro bono and public interest and co-director of the Child Health Advocacy Program.

The gift from the Burford Leimenstoll Foundation honors the late Betty Sams Christian, a longtime supporter of UVA Children’s Hospital. According to W. Bates Chappell, of Kanawha Capital Management and co-director of the Burford Leimenstoll Foundation with Ben R. Lacy IV of Sands Anderson Marks & Miller PC, the Child Health Advocacy Program is a good fit with Christian’s interests.

“She was very interested in helping those with limited or modest means,” said Chappell. “She believed in giving everyone a chance to get ahead and broaden their prospects. This program is well attuned to the ideals she stood for.”

“We are extremely grateful to the Burford Leimenstoll Foundation for recognizing this often-overlooked need,” said Nancy McDaniel, vice chair of pediatrics and medical director of the UVA Children’s Hospital. “The assistance provided by the Child Health Advocacy Program fills a critical gap by allowing families in need to focus on the health and well-being of their children, without feeling like they are facing a constant barrage of legal and financial woes.”

According to Diane Pappas, associate professor of clinical pediatrics and co-director of the Child Health Advocacy Program, the Burford Leimenstoll gift will allow UVA to further develop and expand the program, incorporating legal advocates as regular members of the health care team to better address in a coordinated and comprehensive manner the legal needs that, if neglected, can negatively impact a child’s health.

“As the program develops,” adds Pappas, “we will be able to provide ‘preventative’ care, both legally and medically, anticipating issues and addressing needs before family legal crises and the resultant negative health outcomes can develop. Ultimately, we will develop a statewide network of child health advocacy programs so that we can extend the benefits of this program to children throughout the Commonwealth.”

The Burford Leimenstoll Foundation was established in 1991 by Betty Sams Christian to support local and national charities. Christian was former chair and CEO of Central Coca-Cola Bottling Company, Inc., now part of Coca-Cola Enterprises. Named in honor of Christian’s grandmothers, the foundation continues her philanthropic tradition by supporting a variety of mostly regional charities, including the Virginia Home for Boys, VCU Massey Cancer Center, Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Collegiate School, Boy Scouts of America, and the Virginia College Fund.