Dangerous Data: The Use of Psychotropic Medicine on Foster Children

The use of psychotropic medicine on foster children remains a hotly debated topic. When we polled our readers in our September 2014 issue, the majority believed that the drugs, when given in conjunction with therapy, were an acceptable treatment option. Some, however, believed the drugs can do more harm than good. In that same issue, we reported on a story from Mad in America’s website that asserted the longer children are in foster care the more likely they are to be taking psychotropic medication. Recent news informs us that this trend continues.

Use of Psychotropic Medicine on Foster Children
The San Diego Union Tribune reports that a 2016 audit of the use of psychotropic drugs in the California foster care system raises serious concerns. The audit “…found that nearly 12 percent of California‚Äôs more than 79,000 foster children were prescribed psychotropic medication during the year studied, compared to an estimated 4 percent to 10 percent of non-foster children.”

But the number of children on psychotropic medications isn’t the audit’s most troubling finding.

The audit revealed a startling lack of oversight on the part of California’s county caseworkers. Incomplete and/or inaccurate case notes resulted in workers not knowing which drugs were prescribed to each child, putting children at risk for overdoses and dangerous side effects from drug interactions.

Additionally, caseworkers frequently violate California state law by failing to obtain parental or court approval before securing psychotropic medicine for children in foster care.

“We are failing our foster children,” said California State Auditor Elaine Howell in an interview with KCRA.