The problem of overmedication in foster care


When a child or teen gets put in foster care or group home, psychiatric medication is often used to control behavior and be a replacement for therapy or counseling. A result in this is the overuse of medication in these kids and teens, with little to no medical supervision from a physician. 

According to multiple medical sources such as HealthLine, GoodTherapy, and HealthPartners, psychotropic medications act on the brain and central nervous system to cause changes in mood, behavior, or perception, and can be used to treat serious mental conditions. However, they’re often used on kids who act out rather than being used to treat mental illness. To add onto this, a report done by California State Auditor Elaine M. Howle states that there are thousands of foster children being over-drugged with psychotropic medications in California alone, often without medical follow-up or a legally required approval from a judge or parent. More than often are the medications off-label, with little proven efficacy and significant short and long term risks.

A case highlighting these issues is the Missouri lawsuit case, M.B. vs Tidball, where M.B., a 14 year old boy, had been prescribed more than six psychotropic medications while he was a patient at a psychiatric facility, but his newly appointed foster parent received no information about his medications when she picked him up from the facility. She was handed a bag of medications along with no information on the child’s medical record, mental health needs, and trauma background. The lawsuit ended with both parties making a settlement agreement outlining the procedures to be put in place to improve the foster care use of psychotropics in Missouri, but the damage was already dealt to M.B. 

Another report, made by Fox13 news, told of a 11-year-old who was removed from her biological mother’s care. She suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, ADHD, attachment disorder, anxiety, depression, and optional defiant disorder.  A handful of five or six psychotropic pills were prescribed to keep her under control. However, the foster kid’s mother said the pills only made her worse. “There were a couple different times to where we even had the police out looking for her with helicopters, and incidents where it took several police officers to have her Baker Acted,” she said, explaining the outcome of the medication.

Thankfully, some states such as California and Missouri have adopted laws to protect foster kids from overmedication. Sadly, however, it is still a very prevalent and often unseen problem in the lives of many foster children and teens all over the United States. These kids are at a time where they are most vulnerable and, because of a flawed system, it’s easier to over drug them than give them the most effective health care and therapy they deserve.

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