How does a health care system learn about neglected and abused children—the ones who’ve fallen through the cracks—so they can be helped? That was the story and exploration in a Narrative Matters essay by Janette Kurie titled “Where’s David?”

Kurie recently read an excerpt from her essay on NPR’s “Morning Edition.” In it she tells a tale of pediatric vigilance when a young boy’s chart is discovered in a pile of “no-shows,” records of children who’ve missed their scheduled doctor’s appointments. “What caught our eyes,” she writes, “was the number of appointments this boy had missed. And his growth chart. Instead of curving upward to show a height and weight increase, it swerved south. It took protective services to physically bring him in.” Within hours he was hospitalized for failing to thrive, a diagnosis of severe malnutrition that is usually the result of parental abuse or neglect—in this case, as it turned out, a situation that was multigenerational.

One result of the incident was a Family Support Program to help thousands of these children established where Kurie is director of behavioral medicine education at Penn State University/Good Samaritan Hospital family medicine residency program in Lebanon, Pennsylvania. “Maybe,” she concludes, “there is hope for other children if health care providers make that first phone call to find out: Where is he?” Give a listen to her NPR excerpt, then read the full essay for all of Kurie’s insights.

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