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?

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Course Discussion

TrentDHall's picture

TrentDHall said:

Some ways would be to: 1.) Talk to the pharmacists filling the prescriptions about how to use the medication, potential side effects, etc., 2.) keep all medications secure (lock it up!), 3.) encourage the youth in your care to talk openly to you about their feelings about the treatment. If they don't feel comfortable talking to you, encourage them to speak with another trusted adult (casework, CASA advocate, etc.).
EmDHall's picture

EmDHall said:

There are several ways, but to name a few: 1.) Talk (in detail) with the specialists prescribing the medication about utility/use/monitoring, 2.) meticulously monitor medication application by the child in your care (keep records!), 3.) make sure the youth knows how to obtain and keep up with a copy of their medical records for future use.
MCSemones's picture

MCSemones said:

Foster parents should take the time to learn about proposed treatments and discuss them with the foster youth and team. Not all specialists are trauma-informed, and when possible they should help seek out trauma-informed therapists and clinicians.
ericjo50's picture

ericjo50 said:

Go to all appts, document what you as the foster parent sees with the child, speak up and advocate for the child if you feel the medication is or isnt needed, along with any side effects.
jmangen1974's picture

jmangen1974 said:

I think as foster parents we need to evaluate the childs history and take note of what the foster parents see with the child. We need to quit prescribing meds just to control a childs behavior. Stop and think what the child has went through. Maybe there are triggers that create the childs issues. Meds are not always the answer.
Letty1998's picture

Letty1998 said:

I believe we need to take in the facts we are given upon placement and then seek our own trusted doctors to get another opinion. I have had kids come with 5-6 different meds by different doctors. We went to our doctor and started getting meds took away or changed to something that was more appropriate and less side effects.
Sunnysar's picture

Sunnysar said:

It is so important to be aware of what medications our children take when they come to us and why. Don't be afraid to ask the doctor or get a new assessment or second opinion if it seems like your child is taking too many medications.
Clarolga's picture

Clarolga said:

One of the biggest challenges I have found in working with foster children is knowing why the medications were prescribed and why they are needed. We were able to wean our child off of many of the medications with support of his psychiatrist, however it felt very trial and error and haphazard and with better communication with previous doctors could have been much smoother.
shawna42's picture

shawna42 said:

Foster parents are the front line defense for the child taking medications. We had one foster son that his medication was being continually increased while he was in care. They were not dealing with any of the issues that he had, just drugging him up more. We've finally got him into a treatment facility for intense counseling. I'm hoping it helps. The meds that they were giving him were just a bandaid that he would quit using as soon as he was of age.
mcmerolla's picture

mcmerolla said:

Since foster parents have quite a bit of insight into the children's well-being on a daily basis, they should definitely have some say regarding their medical needs and the administration of medication. The responsibility of this undoubtedly falls on them.