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(Part One) Ashley Schmidt:
said her teen years were a blur, and if you ask the now 21-year-old what movies or bands she liked, she draws a blank.
But Schmidt quickly remembers a different kind of list that marked her adolescence, the names of the nine psychotropic drugs she was once on as a foster child.
"In my opinion it was like they just wanted you to remain in a state of, I don't know, just where you weren't a nuisance to anybody," Schmidt said.
After entering foster care at age 15, Schmidt was in essence raised by psychiatrists, case workers and staff members of residential treatment centers.
Broken Children, Broken System:
Click here to view our interactive timeline of the changes of CPS and foster care. Also you can see videos of those who've made it through the system and see their take on it all.
"They made us do mouth checks and stuff like that to make it a point we took our meds," she said.
Psychotropics are drugs that change brain function and can have severe side effects. Schmidt said they made her feel sleepy, anxious and unable to concentrate. Her grades dropped from A’s and B's, to D's and F's. And according to Schmidt, the drugs didn't really treat her bipolar disorder; they only masked it.
"Maybe if it had been a good difference, it would have been better, but seeing as how it made me feel like a complete zombie, I guess. I lost track of time," she said.
When Schmidt entered foster care in 2005, 26.4 percent of Texas foster children were taking psychotropics for extended periods. Another 37.9 percent had been prescribed a psychotropic for at least one day.
Those figures prompted Assistant Commissioner of Child Protective Services Audrey Deckinga to call for a statewide review of prescription practices.
"The challenge, really for us, was that we were social workers, and social workers and doctors don't often speak the same language," Deckinga said.
1 in 5 Texas foster children on psychotropics
The department hired a medical director, conducted focus groups and initiated case-by-case reviews. Two years later, it published a best practices guide for psychiatrists who saw foster children. It was the first of its kind among state foster care systems.
"We were blazing new territory here," Deckinga said.
The effort led to a 1.7 percent decrease in the number of kids on psychotropics from 2005 to 2007.
Ashley Schmidt was not among them. She aged out in 2007 still with nine psychotropics. The state's reforms hadn't acted quickly enough to impact Schmidt.
"If we had that system in place, we would have caught that and we would have reviewed that case," Deckinga said.
The state's had greater success every year. In 2009, 19.7 percent of foster kids were on psychotropics for extended periods, and 30.1 percent had been prescribed a psychotropic for at least one day.
For Schmidt, however, that's still too many.
"I don't think it’s perfect yet, and it never will be. It angers me we go through what we go through, and it's not our choice," she said.
After turning 18, a psychiatrist of Schmidt's own choosing knocked down her prescription to three psychotropics. Schmidt said it's allowed her to enjoy the little things she would have been too medicated to do in foster care.