Credit hours:

Course Summary

The overuse of psychotropic medication for children and youth in foster care has been a hot topic, as profiled in the national news and in discussions among policy makers and child welfare professionals. 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 provides 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 revolving around the use of psychotropic medications for children and youth
  • How to engage your young person 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 "Foster Kids Given Psychiatric Drugs At Higher Rates", a national media story from NPR that provides an overview of the psychotropic medication issue in foster care.

Step 2

Learn what the impact psychotropic medications has on a young person and get a better understanding of your child’s behavior in reaction to psychotropic medications. Read "Colorado Responds Slowly to Psychotropic Drug Use Among Foster Kids", an in-depth report published by the Denver Post (2014), featuring FosterClub young leader Diego Conde.

Step 3

Review "Making Healthy Choices", a guide developed for youth in foster care regarding 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 "Supporting Youth in Foster Care in Making Healthy Choices" , a guide 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

VMagill127's picture

VMagill127 said:

I feel that caregivers should definitely be an important part of a treatment team - we spend the most time with the youth and see them in a variety of situations that others may not. Caregivers should be able to provide feedback and input and it should carry weight with the rest of the team - as long as the caregiver is trauma informed and advocating for the best interest of the child.
ellenholt's picture

ellenholt said:

Our daughter had severe trauma when we adopted her at 3 1/2. At 5 she was diagnosed with ADHD (drug exposed in utero to meth). For years we tried everything we and her team could think of, but when she hit 9 years old, her screaming and temper tantrums escalated. One night she put her hand through the glass in the back door window. We then added in Risperidone. It was not an easy decision, but at that point we felt that she would never be able to move on, or see there was another way if we didn't give her some relief from her inability to control her emotions. She is doing better, it is not a fix and she will need therapy for the rest of her life, but at least she has the hope of moving on, and finding that she can be successful.
beverly40's picture

beverly40 said:

I don’t know what to say my son is on medication but its not like some kids I see that is on two or three meds. Maybe more is needed to help them to deal with whatever they went through.
beverly40's picture

beverly40 said:

I don’t know what to say my son is on medication but its not like some kids I see that is on two or three meds. Maybe more is needed to help them to deal with whatever they went through.
Karyn.alisa's picture

Karyn.alisa said:

I currently have a teen girl who is on seven medications and is getting no therapy services. Crazy and sad. :(
andidoll's picture

andidoll said:

I am a full time school teacher and foster parent. Knowing the sometimes harmful effects of medications, we waited 6 years and explored many other options before deciding to (finally!) try medication. My (foster) son is not over-medicated, and the addition of medication has been a blessing. He is now able to focus at school and went from failing out of school to ending the previous school year with straight A's. We do not use the medication as a means to control him, numb him, or sedate him. It is a tool that has helped him to focus and be successful. I agree that it is a serious decision to decide to medicate and that other tools should be pursued before deciding to use medication. However, it can be beneficial when it is used correctly.
amberbobst's picture

amberbobst said:

I feel that medication should always be last result, there are so many other healthy alternatives to try first before assuming that the only cure is a medicine.
rdande1's picture

rdande1 said:

The health and welfare of the child in care needs to be a team effort. My wife, myself, the Doctors, Teachers, Caseworkers, and Therapists work together cohesively for what is best for the children in our care. When applied appropriately, medication is a delicate and powerful tool in helping children through trauma and behaviors that overwhelm them in their recovery plan. The role my wife and I play is critical in providing observations of behaviors and any side effects for the Psychiatrist and Therapists to best treat and support the child. We also serve as advocates for the children to minimize medications not needed or when alternate treatment options are available.
Stufflyn2's picture

Stufflyn2 said:

Working in a school all day around students who exhibit emotional outbursts, it is hard for me to fathom what would happen to them if they ended up in the foster care system. Many of the students that I encounter have broken homes with missing parents who either left them with a relative, or show up once in a while to introduce them to their new fling. These students would be thought to be so out of control that they would be primary candidates for over medication if they were sent to the foster care system. Pharmaceutical companies know that overdosing kids is the best way to stay profitable and even go as far to lobby the government to impose the medical quick fix is the only way to get them in control. Unfortunately, the affected patient is unable to fully understand what is happening to them since they would be usually zombified, bloated and completely maladjusted for daily life. Yes the student behaves now, but he/she is miserable. To the school and drug companies: mission accomplished!! To the families, including that of the child, the world continues to fail them. There needs to be more done by all agencies, caretakers, and families to ensure that foster care children cannot be victimized ever again by the almighty dollar.
scohorn's picture

scohorn said:

I think that foster parents should definitely have input in the treatment plans. Foster parents are the ones that are with them day in and day out and know what the struggles they are facing are. They are the ones who have to deal with the effects. I think they are acting as parents and should be allowed to make decisions as if they were the parents.