The Grow Clinic for Children is an outpatient subspecialty clinic at Boston Medical Center 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. In addition to providing clinical services, we advocate for policies that decrease the number of children in need. The Grow Clinic is part of BMC’s Department of Pediatrics.
About Failure to Thrive
Children with FTT have significant problems growing and do not gain weight or height at rates comparable to other children their age. Children who are not growing according to national standards are referred to the Grow Clinic by other clinics and physicians throughout the Greater Boston area for special care and follow-up.
Children with "Failure To Thrive" Diagnosis Demonstrate
- Shortened attention spans
- Increased risk of illness
- Persistent growth failure and emotional problems
- Delayed learning and language skills
- Impaired fine and gross motor skills
About Our Patients
Since the clinic was founded in 1984, more than 1,650 FTT children have graduated from our program. In 2015, over 230 children were served in the clinic. The following are some of our findings:
- Average time of successful treatment is 11 months.
- About 12% of our children are homeless and live in shelters.
- 82% of our children depend on public health insurance.
- The referral rate has doubled in the last five years.
- 10%-20% of children newly referred to the Grow Clinic were less than 2,500 grams at birth (low birth weight), and 89% of the children referred were less than 24 months of age.
The Grow Clinic serves a diverse patient population, mostly low-income families from some of Greater Boston's poorest communities, including Dorchester, Roxbury, Mattapan, Jamaica Plain, South Boston and the South End. Recent census data for these neighborhoods shows that:
- 68% of the population lives below 100% of the poverty level and nearly all live below 200% of the poverty level.
- 55% of residents are African-American, 24% are Hispanic and 17% are Asian (includes Asian Indian and Middle Eastern). African Americans are at much higher risk of infant mortality than other ethnic groups, due in part to poor nutritional status of mothers and babies.
The Grow Clinic's intensive 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 5% in 2006.
The success of the 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 to fund essential outreach services to our clients in addition to medical care.
The children in the Grow Clinic range from moderately to severely malnourished. Because malnutrition is both a medical problem and a social/economic condition, the clinic takes a multidisciplinary approach to the care of FTT children and their families. This approach recognizes that there is a relationship between a safe and secure family environment and the well-being of the child.
Children’s HealthWatch is the outreach and research arm of the Grow Clinic. Children’s HealthWatch identifies need for additional services for children in the pediatric emergency room with food insecurity and previously identified FTT and monitors the impact of public policy on the health of children ages zero to three.
Our services extend beyond traditional medical treatment. We provide intensive social service and nutrition home visiting, not only to residences but also other settings where children are fed (day care, schools, etc.). Our very successful outreach program helps patients' families access essentials such as nutritious foods, clothing, transportation, proper housing and other fundamental necessities.
These special outreach services are the key to our clinic's success and survival and depend entirely on donations from the private sector. Contact us to learn more about charitable opportunities, including donations, volunteering and internships.
- Medical assessment and treatment
- Nutritional assessment and counseling
- Social worker assessment
- Developmental assessment
- Child Psychiatry brief consultations
- Home health education
- Referral to BMC Food Pantry specialized nutritional supplements if not covered by insurance
- Referral to Medical-Legal Partnership Boston
- One way Taxi service to or from Grow Clinic appointments for selected fragile patients
- Camperships (as funding permits)
Faculty Physicians - Tuesday & Wednesday
Founder, Grow Clinic
Deborah A. Frank, MD
Co-Director, Grow Clinic
Megan T. Sandel, MD, MPH
Administrative & Clinical Staff
Marie Celestin, MA
Catherine Barry, RD, LDN, CLC
Lisa Novinsky, RD, CLC, CSP
Emily Sylvester, RD, LN, CLC
Ilene Torchia, RD, LDN, CLC
Tania Altidor, LICSW
Jesika Lopez, LCSW
Haitian-Creole Family Outreach Worker
Hispanic Family Outreach Worker
Vietnamese Family Outreach Worker
To schedule an appointment or to refer a patient please call 617.414.5251
Your appointment will take place on the Boston Medical Center campus at the following location:
Grow Clinic for Children
Yawkey Ambulatory Care Center, 6th floor
850 Harrison Avenue
Boston, MA 02118
You may also schedule an appointment at our satellite clinic
Brockton Neighborhood Health Center
63 Main Street
Brockton, MA 02301
Next to "Gift Designation" choose Grow Clinic.
Growth & Development Programs: Supply Drive
Many of the Grow Clinic children and their families are struggling with the cost of heat, food, and shelter year round. Finding additional funds to provide children with basic necessities is difficult indeed. With your help, we can support our patients and their families and help them to be warm and healthy. Your gift ensures that our yearly drive reaches not only our patients, but also their siblings, strengthening the whole family.
The Grow Clinic serves families in Boston at Boston Medical Center and also has a satellite clinic at the Brockton Neighborhood Health Center.
Please review our supply donation listing to help you plan your donation.
Please call 617.414.5251 to schedule your donation drop-off.
Grow Clinic Holiday Party and Toy Drive
Our holiday party takes place in December. In preparation for the party and to ensure that every family we serve has a joyous holiday season, please consider donating to our annual toy drive starting on October to support the children and siblings of the Grow Clinic.
Baby Steps NICU Follow Up Clinic at Boston Medical Center
The Baby Steps Clinic provides developmental evaluations and nutritional assessments of infants born prematurely or term infants that had a complicated newborn period. Similar to The Grow Clinic, Baby Steps is a multidisciplinary clinic staffed by a developmental/behavioral pediatrician, occupational therapists, dietitians, and family outreach advocates.
Families seen in the Baby Steps Clinic often face struggles similar to those faced by Grow Clinic families, including the cost of providing heating, food, and safe, stable housing for their medically fragile child and their siblings. With your donations and support, we can provide Baby Steps families with supplies that are essential to newborn development and nutrition and help families begin a healthy life for their babies.
Please also consider supporting the Baby Steps Clinic. In-kind donations, detailed in the link below, can be dropped-off following the same directions for Grow Clinic donations.
- C.A. MacDonald and Associates
- Center for Disease Control and Prevention Pediatric Nutrition and Surveillance System
- Center for Law and Social Policy
- Center on Budget and Policy Priorities
- Child Trends Inc.
- Child Welfare League of America
- Children's Defense Fund
- Hands Net
- Harbor-UCLA Department of Pediatrics
- Project Bread
- Second Harvest
- Stand for Children
- Urban Institute
- US Department of Agriculture
- US Department of Health and Human Services
- W.K. Kellogg Foundation