|SAFEGUARDING IS OUR PRIMARY SHARED CONCERN|
These challenges are now being compounded by an additional concern: the over-administration of psychotropic drugs. Psychotropic medications are intended to combat or ease the symptoms of behavioral andmental healthproblems, but amongchildrenin foster care, thesedrugsare being prescribed at excessive levels and often for inappropriatereasons.
According to a recent study conducted by researchers at the Tufts Clinical and Translational Science Institute, about 4 percent of the generalyouthpopulation has receivedprescriptionsfor these drugs during the past decade. By comparison, the numbers for children in foster care fall between 13 and 52 percent. This study corroborates the findings of similar studies conducted in
There are several debatable factors that can explain the disparity inprescriptionrates between children in foster care and the general youthpopulation. While foster children may appear to suffer from a higher rate of behavioral and mentalhealthconcerns, many of these behavioral issues arise as anaturalresponse to trauma and domestic stress, and are being improperly diagnosed asmental health disorders.
Due to the time and financial constraints placed on care-givers and a lack of access to qualified medical professionals, it seems likely that many of these inappropriate prescriptions are written for the sake of convenience.
The reasons behind the trend may be simple, but the consequences of inappropriate prescriptiondruguse can be tragic. Researchers cite many cases of children in the foster care system who are grossly overmedicated, irresponsiblymedicated, or feel imprisoned rather than cared for while being regularly dosed with an indiscriminate cocktail ofpsychotropic drugs.
While medication can be a valuable tool in the management of serious mental healthdisorders, prescriptions for children should be carefully monitored and adjusted and should be used in conjunction with other therapeutic treatments applied by trained professionals. While children in the general population often receive this individual attention, children in foster care are frequently subject to indiscriminate treatment plans with weak or limited follow-up.
Juvenile courts must stay closely involved in the foster care process to ensure that an individual child's interests are being served.