Foster Children and Psychotropic Medications

Psychotropic Meds

The amount of research on psychotropic medication and the prevalence of those prescribed to children in foster care has increased tremendously over the past few years. The rate of utilization of psychotropic medication in the foster care population has been estimated to range from 13% to 52%, compared to 4% in the general youth population.

Is there a need for treatment guidelines and parameters regarding the appropriate use of psychotropic medications for children and youth in foster care? The answer is yes. Too often children in care are diagnosed with some sort of disorder or mental health issue. The truth is, these children are victims of abuse and/or neglect and thus, have undergone tremendous amounts of emotional and physical trauma. Hence, children’s behaviors/actions, whether physical or verbal, are in some cases taken the wrong way. It’s been proven that without a clear understanding of mental health issues, a misdiagnosis can be made and incorrect medications can be prescribed.

For DeKalb CASA Volunteers, there are steps we can take to help the children we advocate for who might be misdiagnosed or over-medicated. Below are a list of questions to ask either the psychiatrist, therapist, and the child if they are of appropriate age to understand.

  • What is this medication needed for?
  • Were you able to obtain an accurate medical, behavioral, and psychological history from parents or past providers?
  • What else has been tried?
  • What other modes of treatment of intervention will also be provided?
  • Who will monitor the ongoing use of this medication and how often will this child be seen?
  • What are the possible side effects of this medication and how will they be handled?
  • What evidence supports the use of this medication with children?
  • Will this child be able to comply with the prescribed medication?
  • Does the child agree with taking this ┬ámedication?
  • Who has given permission to begin this child on medication?
  • What other medications is this child on and can this medication be safely combined with the current medication?
  • How will this medication help improve this child’s functioning?
  • What are the risks versus benefits of using this medication and what are the risks versus benefits of not using this medication?
  • Is a second opinion warranted in this case?

These questions can make all the difference. Let us not allow another child fall short of their true potential. Give them power over their life and help provide them with knowledge to understand what they need medically, regardless of the type of treatment needed. In some instances, being prescribed these medications can also make all the difference. Take it case-by-case. The best interests should always be at heart and if you are unsure, ask! Be the difference.

#advocate #volunteer #onevoiceonechild


Statistics and Information Gathered from:

Aneja, Alka. A presentation presented to the DHS Board Members on March 21, 2012. Retrieved here.

Solchany, JoAnne. Psychotropic Medication and Children in Foster Care: Tips for Advocates and Judges. October, 2011.

Texas Department of Family Protective Services and The University of Texas at Austin College of Pharmacy. September, 2013. Retrieved here.

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