Credit hours:

Course Summary

The overuse of psychotropic medication for children and youth in foster care has been a popular topic for national news networks and in discussions among policy makers, child welfare professionals, and other stakeholders in the field. It is critical that foster parents have a strong understanding of this important issue, so they can help to manage the mental health and treatment of the young people they care for. This module will provide an introduction to the issue, as well as a tool that foster parents and caregivers can use with young people in their care to help manage mental health needs and decisions about psychotropic medications.

In this course, you can expect to learn:

  • General concerns with the use of psychotropic medications for children and youth

  • How to engage children and youth in your care in conversations about their mental health and the use of medication to manage it

  • Trauma-informed strategies to manage a child or youth’s mental health

Step 1

Read national media story "Foster Kids Given Psychiatric Drugs At Higher Rates" from National Public Radio (NPR) that provides an overview of the uses and concerns with psychotropic medication in foster care.

Step 2

Learn the impact psychotropic medications can have on young people and grow your understanding of potential behaviors that can occur in reaction to psychotropic medications. Read in-depth report "Colorado Responds Slowly to Psychotropic Drug Use Among Foster Kids" by the Denver Post, featuring FosterClub Lived Experience Leader Diego Conde.

Step 3

Review the "Making Healthy Choices" guide developed for youth in foster care that discusses making decisions about their mental health, treatment options, and the use of psychotropic medications.

Step 4

Learn more about treatment for youth in foster care who have experienced trauma and are working to improve their mental health by reviewing the guide "Supporting Youth in Foster Care in Making Healthy Choices" for caregivers and other supportive adults.

Step 5

Join the discussion in the comments below to answer the following question:

How should foster parents be consulted or actively participate in the treatment plans of children and youth they care for?

Step 6

Finished the module?  If you are logged in as a subscribed user, take the quiz to earn your Continuing Education Credit hours and certificate!

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Course Discussion

linneacnord's picture

linneacnord said:

I am a strong believer of medication as a last resort. Reading about the high number of children given medication for their behaviors, I feel sad that this is the option most used. I know that there are times when it needs to be done, but I truly hope that people use other methods first in order to help children before medicating them into a hazy state.
Smorton's picture

Smorton said:

We Foster 2 young boys, almost 2 years of age. I have no experience with medications in foster children, but if they were recommended by the doctor I would make sure as their foster parent that it wasn't the Only thing they were getting. Meaning therapy I feel is very important
albertjeffrey27's picture

albertjeffrey27 said:

I have been a foster parent and now HCTC Foster dad for higher care foster kids. In both, for the past 8 years, I have encounter the arrogance that may be perceived by foster parent's by medical doctors or Case Managers. In my experience, I have learned to advocate for both my regular foster care children and higher care foster kids. How? Well, as repeatedly mentioned, treat them kids as your own, raise the flag and you don't have to take the care of those medical facilities that are contracted by the your State or Agency overseeing the case management of the child. You can always advocate by justifying it is your parental or guardianship to seek a second opinion in the best medical benefit of the foster child and not the agency or contracted medical doctor. For instance, I adopted an 11 year old boy who had eleven (11) powerful prescription medications. In a matter of month's when I first fostered this young kiddo, his constant vomiting, nervous ticks and sleep spells was easily controlled as I began to monitored the medications and the time's these medications were administered. In lest than a year, my son now take's one over the counter medication (IRON) to treat his low iron deficiency. Prozac, ADD, ADHD, Zoloft and all other crazy harsh on your body medications were slowly reduced as I fought for my foster/adoptive son to received second and third medical recommendations from reputable hospitals or clinics. I felt some, case manager's feel they are above the foster parents which in my case, I am please to report I turned that table around and made sure I sustained the courts well informed of my child's care and need for slow decrease of all his medications. We as foster parents need to engage in the better interest of these foster kids life's. I have had a few of the 8 foster children I have had that I would agree on some of their medications such as increasing their ADD/ADHD medication based on my in home care and daily care of such children. Overall, I agree that I see most of my foster children being overly medicated due to poor parental supervision by some foster families or case managers not engaging in advocating for the child under their care. In conclusion; don't feel intimidated by the foster child's attorney or treatment plan. Just advocate for the child and seek other medical venues to ensure you get a second or third opinion form medical or psychiatric professionals in order to get the right treatment and person to help you with your foster child. My now adoptive son is healthy and striving socially and in school with no more medications in his body. One life saved and more to come in the future.
melissamcgill's picture

melissamcgill said:

Over the last 9 years I have had 5 foster kids come thru my home. Most of them stayed for at least 2 years or more. They all had different issues but at some point were all on medications. I agree that we as fosterparents need to be included in the discussion of taking them off of a medication. We are the ones with them day in and day out. We see the benefit they have on them. If they are working why change it.
Desiree9157's picture

Desiree9157 said:

I believe that when you open your home to a foster child, that child should be treated as if he or she is your own. when my foster daughter came to live with me, I ensured that I obtained full knowledge and understanding of her medications and what they were for, it is VERY important to manage their medication correctly, because you are responsible for giving the child the medication as well as keep a log to track when the medication was given to ensure that the correct doses are give and the correct time. It is also important to monitor the child once medications have been given to them to ensure that there aren't any bad effects that the child feels after taking it and if so, it is your responsibility to speak on their behalf for them if you feel something is wrong or if maybe it is not helping and other medication may be needed.
ncsaint's picture

ncsaint said:

We had an 11 year old foster boy who had several emotional problems. We asked the Case worker if she would allow him a psychiatrist to review him. She emphatically stated no. She immediately stated that she does not believe in drugs or the use of drugs for children. I understand that there are cases of over medication or being medicated for no reason. But there are times when medication is needed. Because the case worker refused to work with us we had to ask that the boy be re-homed. We were sad and disappointed because we could have worked with the child if we could have gotten the help ourselves.
deybarry01's picture

deybarry01 said:

I currently have a 10 year old boy in my home. He was on 4 different meds when he was placed with me 7 months ago. He was showing improvement so the case worker and doctor took him off 1 of the meds. The next month the doctor decided to take him off of another med. This turned out to be a very bad decision. After 3 weeks he was put back on the meds. I feel like I should have been consulted when removing the meds because I'm with him everyday. Foster Parents see the day to day behavior and moods so our input is needed.
dewbabyt's picture

dewbabyt said:

When a child is placed in your home you should treat this child as if they were your own. Being completely involved in their medication management is vital. You are responsible for giving the child the medication and need to educate yourself on the risks and side effects of these meds. If you feel something isn't right or they are on a medication they shouldn't be then you need to step up and be their voice
1biochild's picture

1biochild said:

I have had various age ranges over the years in foster parenting and i think that the foster caregivers should have input in all areas of the child's treatment. sometimes at intake the social workers only get a glimpse of what is going on and then they pick a family. once the child is placed the social worker will never really know the behaviors because the children have a way of behaving while being seen and then a month later they begin to act out. i firmly believe that as foster parents documentation is the key and should go to all appointments so everyone is on the same page and that the foster child knows that their behavior and medication plan will be discussed at the dr office with them present.
bclickwar's picture

bclickwar said:

we had one foster boy who was 6 years old.. we took him to therapy and the dr. wanted to prescribe meds for him. he was austic and had severe adhd. we asked the caseworker about his meds. and she said we couldn't give him any because his birth mom refused to let him be given any meds for his condition.. our hands where tied and we felt that we let this child down... the birth parents should not be allowed to hinder these children from getting the help they need....we feel as if we failed him... he is now with an adoptive family and maybe they will help him... sometimes the system doesn't work for the children....