Authors

Allison Flood

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

2015

Abstract

Children in foster care and youth involved in the juvenile justice system are prescribed psychotropic medications at alarmingly high rates. Foster children are given psychotropic medications at a rate nine times higher than children not in foster care. And over fifty percent of the youth involved in the juvenile justice system are prescribed psychotropic medications within one month of intake.

While psychotropic medications can be a useful part of a child’s treatment plan, over-medication causes these children and youth to “act like zombies”, contemplate harming themselves, or worse, commit suicide. Additionally, the side effects of over-medication are endless. They can range from, but are not limited to, the less severe to the most extreme – anxiety, dizziness, confusion, and changes in behavior, to excessive weight gain, seizures, and death from liver failure.

Children in foster care and youth in the juvenile justice system are overmedicated because they are often prescribed psychotropic medication: (1) without informed consent by the child, his/her parent, or the court-appointed guardian; (2) without the review of a full medical history and diagnostic assessment, without record keeping by the agency who has custody of the child, without protocols to monitor and review medication use on a short or long-term basis, and with inadequate court oversight; (3) to control behavior, often concomitantly with other psychotropic medication, in dosages exceeding the maximum recommendation, and for off-label use; and (4) without previous or concurrent use of any alternate therapies or psychosocial treatments. Children in foster care and youth involved in the juvenile justice system are thereby denied their constitutional right to adequate medical care, including the right to avoid the over-administration of psychotropic medications.

Comments

This report was written under the supervision of Professor Andrew Schepard.

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