A Smile for Kids - FAQ
Updated: Aug 29
A Smile for Kids Mission:
Improving the self-confidence, health and resilience of underserved youth throughout Oregon by providing equitable access to orthodontic care.
What we do?
A Smile for Kids (ASK) looks to affect Oregon communities in several different ways. The most apparent and immediate impact shows in the fact that we seek out under-resourced kids with orthodontic needs who suffer from severe self-esteem issues and bullying. Through partnerships with 64 orthodontists in Oregon, we provide access to funding for braces and maxillofacial surgery where there was otherwise no access.
Where do the kids in our program come from?
By building connections to social service networks in Oregon (schools, DHS, churches, after school programs and other family services), we encourage all professionals who are part of an under-resourced kid's life to refer them to us.
What is the scope of treatment for someone in the ASK program?
Naturally, that depends on the individual scenario, but most treatments involve two years of braces and a strong commitment from the recipient to maintain good oral health as well as a commitment from the orthodontist to treat the patient. That is why we only work with orthodontists who have excellent reputations, and are rooted deeply in their community.
Some kids require a full dental “overhaul” before we start orthodontic treatment to ensure a high success rate. Some kids need to have teeth extracted in order to make room for their permanent teeth and some require maxillofacial surgery in order to line up their jaw correctly. In the case of oral surgery, we work with oral surgeons and Shriners to make that happen. The bottom line is that the individual sponsor does not incur any additional charges, just because of the added expenses. Their portion remains at a maximum of $3000 and the child still receives the treatment they need, no matter what.
What do the kids contribute?
In return, we ask three critical things of the kids during the two-year treatment:
· Provide at least 4 hours of community service each month
· Keep grades at "C" or above
· Keep all orthodontist appointments
Because of this, our program delivers 1000 community service hours on average to service organizations in Oregon - giving the kids a chance to develop resilience and added self-esteem as well as explore career options. The higher GPA standard results in ASK kids having a High School graduation rate of 94%, raising the overall graduation rate for Oregon – which is currently at a 80% statewide average.
What change do we hope to make?
Through all the facets of our program, we aim to:
· Impact high school graduation rate in Oregon positively from its current 80%, one family at a time.
· Impact resilience in all the ASK kids, but especially in trauma affected kids.
· Increase awareness around bullying and how all types of bullying lower the victim's contributions to our communities.
· Improve the family's overall health by introducing the kids to health services and professionals who can help them focus on healthy habits, instead of using ER for oral non-emergency services.
· Grow participation in Oregon's community service organizations from kids who may not otherwise have seen volunteering as a benefit to their own development.
By uncovering their strength and using it for good we hope to help create resilient, empowered kids who feel connected to the world and who will stand up for other bullied kids. It is not the victim's fault that bullies selected them as a target; we just aim to help remove a few barriers that may make life more difficult than it has to be for middle- and high school kids.
How do we measure success?
In order for us to measure the validity of our program and progress for the kids, we have a few mechanisms in place. Before each patient enters the program, we set a baseline on the application by asking ranking questions around self-esteem, career options, participation in-group activities and other social indicators. We also speak with the child's school and get a copy of their latest grade report to ensure that they are at least at a "C" or above. If they are not, we incentivize the student by waiting to start treatment until they raise their GPA to a "C".
Throughout the 2-year treatment, we conduct compliance calls to the orthodontist and family every 3 months to ensure that the child is attending their orthodontist appointments and completing their volunteer hours. This also entails an overall conversation about the wellbeing and engagement of the patient.
Post-treatment, we return to the social determinant questions from the initial application and ask the same questions again. This second round of answers gives us great insight into the progress of each child. We have moved to electronic record keeping to deduct more solid data from the answers.
Update: The above-mentioned baseline measurements are currently part of a large OHSU research project where we look far beyond what we can measure with phone calls and text messages. ASK has engaged with OHSU community Research Hub to conduct a larger study of our effect on social determinants, short and long term, as well as widening the scope beyond the effects on the child and their family to the larger community in which they live.
On the back end, we fund our program in a few different ways. We seek grant funding through health and community-service oriented organization and from funds all around Oregon. This includes corporate giving and leveraging our connections with other non-profit organizations.
We find individual sponsors who wish to help the kids by sponsoring the entire orthodontic process for that child and in return, we encourage sponsors and the child to communicate with each other. This has added a high level of accountability to the program and given the recipient a stronger sense that there are people out there who care about them. For some of our kids, this is the only place they get to feel that connectedness.
We are launching individual giving campaigns to encourage work, family and school groups to crowdfund or peer2peer fund when one person wants to help but cannot afford a full set of braces for a kid who desperately needs them.
Finally, we work closely with all our orthodontic partners to ensure that the in-kind donation of their time and materials for approximately half the cost of the orthodontic treatment makes a difference in their community. Without their help, we would be hard-pressed to make our program happen.