Family of girl with brain cancer says Ronald McDonald House unfairly rejected them

- The family of a 4 year old girl battling Stage 4 brain cancer says they were forced to stop treatment in Houston because the Ronald McDonald House denied them housing.

The Garcia’s believe one reason is because they’re Hispanic.  They say like any parent all they want is for their daughter to have a happy childhood.

Her mask muffles the few words she can say.  Jolynn is a proud 4 year old but her journey seems a lot longer.
“One day your child's very healthy, the next day they're on life support that's very heartbreaking for any parent,” Evelyn Flores said.

Her mother says right around New Year’s Jolynn was diagnosed with a rare and forceful form of brain cancer Medulloblastoma Stage 4.

“I was praying. The whole time I was praying for God not to take our baby and he answered our prayers,” Flores said,

But now this family says they want God to answer one more prayer.  Jolynn was being treated at MD Anderson back in the summer but when they applied for housing at Ronald McDonald House since they live six hours away, the Garcia’s were told no.

“He didn't have any remorse, He didn't have any sympathy,” Flores said.

Which is why activists from LULAC have jumped in.  The family admits the husband has misdemeanors on his record, but many believe this is also a case of racial profiling.
“Just seeing her last name on the list and like we're not going to help her. A lot of people think of Hispanics and Mexicans as a lot of ugly names,” Flores said.

LULAC says the Ronald McDonald House’s board needs more diversity.

“We're also asking that a letter of apology be sent to the Garcia family. We're also asking the Garcia family be compensated,” LULAC Spokesperson Augie Pinedo said.
The CEO of Houston’s Ronald McDonald House responded with this lengthy statement:

Ronald McDonald House Houston’s first priority is to ensure the comfort and care of the families we serve each day. Given the communal living environment and out of an abundance of caution, Chapters may elect to do background checks on all families referred for accommodation. If a background check reveals conviction for assault, crimes against children or family violence, as well as other violent criminal activity, then for the well-being of all families staying in the House the family would be asked to work with their hospital social worker to find other accommodations.

For our Chapter, it is standard practice for any adult accompanying the child to be cleared through our background check policy. In this particular case, while the family was not eligible to stay at the Houston RMH, we were comforted in knowing that their needs could be met through the availability of additional resources. Accommodation provisions are made by hospital social workers working with patient families. And, throughout their treatment in early July, this family had access to a Ronald McDonald Family Room inside M.D. Anderson so they could rest just steps from their daughter.

The RMH Houston Board has developed policies that are in the best interest of all the children and families staying at our House, including conducting criminal background checks. All policies are posted on our Chapter’s website. These policies do not impact a child’s ability to receive treatment, nor do they prevent a family from accessing other support services through their hospital social worker.

RMH Houston holds compassion for each and every family caring for a seriously ill child. The House served over 560 individual families in 2014.  The Chapter’s board, staff and volunteers are focused on providing a supportive communal environment for all families with the stability and resources needed so they can focus on the health and well-being of their children.

Leslie Bourne
CEO, Ronald McDonald House Houston

The Garcia’s plan to take legal action against the organization.

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