Every child that is born with an orofacial cleft in the area served by the Dell Children’s Medical Center is seen by the Cleft Team coordinator before the child leaves the hospital. Prior to birth, the local cleft team sets up initial appointments for the parents to come and meet the plastic surgeons and get familiar with the program. Every effort is made to minimize unrest or distress at childbirth so the parents are as best prepared as possible when that special day comes. They are seen by one of the cleft team professionals before ever leaving the hospital and schedules are set.

Additionally, school district administrators and pediatricians contact Austin Smiles about children with cleft lip and/or palate who were not born in the area but who need treatment. Austin Smiles in turn notifies the cleft team and the family is contacted and brought in for an evaluation.

About the Cleft Team

The Cleft Team has currently has 750 patients registered from Austin and the 10-county surrounding area. Prior to birth, many of the parents contact Dell Children’s Medical Center to seek help and information. They are referred to the Cleft Team medical coordinator who in turn coordinates their first visit to the team to learn about the birth defect. Initial visits with specific team members begin within two weeks. When a baby with orofacial cleft is born outside of Austin, their local pediatricians, clinic or school notifies the Cleft Team or the Austin Smiles office.


The progress of all patients is reviewed annually by the Cleft Team to ensure that they continue to receive the appropriate medical protocol including any additional surgeries that are necessary. Children with orofacial cleft are under the direction of the Cleft Team from birth until 18 years old.

Here in Central Texas, we provide case management support for children with orofacial cleft and their families. Primary medical care is provided by the Cleft Team at Dell Children’s Medical Center of Central Texas. We ensure that the patients and their families have the other kinds of support they need, such as:

  • Temporary housing in Austin during treatment and follow-up visits
  • Community networking support that enables families just embarking on the journey to connect with and gain coping skills from families who have been there.
  • Educational materials for parents and children to help them prepare for the ongoing process involved in treating orofacial cleft.
  • Support activities for patients and their families including:
    • Camp Amigo – a weekend overnight camp where our patients enjoy outdoor activities, team building, and coming together with other young Texans dealing with orofacial clefts.
    • Social events held throughout the year that bring fellowship and fun to patients and their families.
    • Educational seminars.

Austin Smiles also offers financial assistance, through the Patient’s Assistance Fund, to families who need supplemental financial aid. We also occasionally provide financial assistance when the Cleft Team needs the services of a healthcare professional outside of our volunteer network.

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