The Boston Medical Center Grow Clinic

week 11:  this week i'm gonna... help children to thrive

A child visiting The Grow Clinic

A child visiting The Grow Clinic

One-year-old Joey had just been discharged from the hospital following asthma with pneumonia. He lay on the exam table at The Grow Clinic, the size of a normal 7-month-old, weak and miserable and covered with chafed, peeling skin. His mother, 8 months pregnant, sat and wept. The Grow Clinic team learned she was homeless with two other children and her husband, who was employed but could not earn enough for rent.

Source: Feeding America

Source: Feeding America


Joey could not walk, and tests showed multiple food allergies to almost every affordable food: milk, eggs, peanuts, beef, chicken... as well as to the mice and insects which infested the homeless shelter. The team went into coordinated action - enlisting specialists, purchasing very expensive hypoallergenic formula, instructing the family on the child's difficult and restricted diet, and periodically delivering bags of appropriate foods he could eat. The Grow Clinic social worker advocated within the homeless system to get the family safely housed and found winter clothes for the children.

8 months later, Joey still requires help from Grow Clinic for the specialized foods he can tolerate, but he is robust, thriving, walking and talking, with a plump and healthy infant brother and a mother who hopes to attend community college.

See more about the impact the Grow Clinic is making in this video:


The Grow Clinic for Children is an outpatient subspecialty clinic at Boston Medical Center (BMC) that started in 1984 to provide comprehensive specialty medical, nutritional, developmental and social services and dietary assistance to children from the Greater Boston area referred with Failure To Thrive (FTT) by their primary care physician. Children with FTT have significant problems growing and do not gain weight or height at rates comparable to other children their age. They typically demonstrate shortened attention spans, increased risk of illness, persistent growth failure and emotional problems, delayed learning and language skills, and impaired fine and gross motor skills.

In addition to providing clinical services, The Grow Clinic advocates for policies that decrease the number of children in need. Their efforts to educate and reach out to community health centers have resulted in earlier intervention for FTT children, thus greatly increasing their chances of getting better and reducing the risk of hospitalization from 50% in 1984 to less than 5% today. 

The success of The Grow Clinic depends on outreach services that are not reimbursed by insurance companies or government programs. Therefore, the survival of the clinic depends on private donations.

In South Boston, a face like Maura's is called a "map of Ireland," pale skin, fly away red hair, and a sprinkle of freckles. She could have been on a travel poster if she wasn't so terribly thin - the weight of a child half her age.

Maura's mother woke up at 3am every morning, dressed her sleepy child, and together they walked through the dark streets to a nearby fast food restaurant, where mom worked the breakfast shift. Maura would go back to sleep under the table in the staff room until her daycare opened. When mom's shift ended at noon, she collected Maura from daycare and rushed over to the local women and children's shelter for a free lunch. Sometimes, if they were too late for lunch, they shared a "supersized" cup of French fries and what they called "tonic" (soda).

Noticing that Maura was not growing like her peers, mom found The Grow Clinic, which first treated Maura's anemia. They then got the family on WIC (the Federal Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children) and found a daycare which included meals. When Maura and her mom visited The Grow Clinic the next year, she had gained height and weight and was reading above the first grade level. The Grow Clinic had put them on a healthier path and showed them that nutrition was not only essential for growth, but also brain development and thus success in school.

Notes for this week:

  • March is National Nutrition Month! givetwig is excited to support The Grow Clinic and their efforts to keep all children healthy and thriving.
  • Our collective givetwig donation will sponsor approximately 10 children with nutritional supplements for a month.
  • For further information regarding The Grow Clinic, please check out their website.

this week i'm gonna donate to The Boston Medical Center Grow Clinic

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