The Medical-Legal Partnership for Children (MLPC), started in 1993 at the Boston Medical Center, uses a “bottom-up” approach to help pediatricians confronted with the “downstream” manifestations of systemic health threats. MLPC began by partnering pediatricians with lawyers in order to tackle the multitude of problems that patients face outside the clinic doors. Working collaboratively, medical and legal professionals can ensure that policies benefit both individuals and the communities in which they live. By bringing together the expertise, skills, and political clout of these two powerful professions, MLPC works to ensure that families are protected and their most basic needs are met.
By 2005 almost 30 sites were seeking to replicate the Boston model and soliciting consultation from program originators. Responding to this demand for technical assistance, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation provided $2.4 million in funding to create a national center at the Boston Medical Center. With so many sites striving to replicate the model, the Kellogg Foundation recognized an opportunity to coordinate across communities and establish a structure for capturing and sharing the learning from the expanding field. The mission of the MLPC national center is to build on the experiences of the Boston and replication sites to transform both pediatric health care and legal aid services. Additional support from Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) has enhanced the activities of the national center and fueled site replication.