This month, the California State Senate approved four bills sponsored by the National Center for Youth Law, or NCYL. These bills are designed to prevent the over-medication of foster children, particularly with psychotropic drugs. The bills will help to limit the misuse of these drugs, and give child care workers the strength to provide prescriptions only when necessary.
The court authorization process will now require more convincing evidence of the need for prescription drugs before they are given to foster children. Professionals who work with these children will have more training programs to prevent inappropriate drug-related practices. Group homes who are overly reliant on psychotropic medication will be investigated and possibly asked to put corrective action plans in place to treat conditions using methods other than medication.
An investigation by the Los Angeles Daily News found that approximately 1 out of every 4 foster youth were being given psychotropics in 2011. This result struck many as alarming.
“These can’t be the only cases out there,” says an anonymous source who spent months in the foster care system during their early childhood, “this kind of thing happens in the system all the time. Kids who are thought of as ‘tough to handle’ are sometimes drugged to make them behave.”
While in some cases treatment of these children is necessary, the NCYL believes that many children in foster care are being over-medicated. One specific case originating in Texas caught the media’s eye in 2011, when a young man from the foster system spoke to congress about his experiences with over-medication.
Ke’onte Cook was given medication for seizures and bipolar, even though he had never suffered from seizures and was never diagnosed with bipolar. His story touched many people, and Cook is now living happily with his adoptive parents.
Over-medication of any child can be dangerous. Restrictions like the ones put in place by the four passed bills will hopefully help children in the foster care receive the exact care they need, nothing more, and nothing less.
To learn more of Cook’s story, you can read an article about him here.