After years of growing concern, the California state auditor has produced a damning report describing how the state’s 79,000 foster children are being drugged with psychotropic medications at abnormally high rates.
The report found that nearly 12 percent of kids in California’s child welfare system were prescribed psychotropic medications – including antipsychotics, antidepressants and mood stabilizers – during 2014-2015. This compares to a rate of 4 to 10 percent for non-foster kids.
Some of these vulnerable children were drugged “in amounts and dosages that exceeded state guidelines,” with no follow-up by the county to ensure these prescriptions were appropriate. Some counties also violated the law by failing to obtain court or parental approval for psychotropic medications.
California spent $226 million on psychotropic medications for foster kids over the last decade, which amounts to almost 72 percent of total drug spending for foster youth.
The report slams the state and counties for a failure of oversight that has allowed child welfare centers to resort to drugging to control behavior, which can have devastating effects on brain development and health condition.
According to a 2014 investigation by the Los Angeles Daily News:
“…there is substantial evidence of many of the drugs’ dramatic side effects: rapid-onset obesity, diabetes and a lethargy so profound that foster kids describe dozing through school and much of their young lives. Long-term effects, particularly on children, have received little study, but for some psychotropics there is evidence of persistent tics, increased risk of suicide, even brain shrinkage.”
Over the last decade, nearly 15 percent of California’s foster kids were prescribed psychotropic medications, and almost 1 in 4 adolescents were being drugged in this way – part of a growing trend across the country.
“To be prescribing these medications so extensively and so, I think, thoughtlessly, with so little evidence supporting their use, it’s just malpractice,” said George Stewart, a Berkeley child psychiatrist who has treated the neediest foster children in the Bay Area for the past four decades. “It really is drugging them.” Read more.