A federal report has stated foster children in US receive psychotropic drugs, including antipsychotics and antidepressants at a higher rate than other children covered by the government insurance program, Medicaid. Foster kids are being prescribed the drugs at rates 2.7 to 4.5 higher than non-foster children and often at much higher doses.
The study by the Government Accountability Office is raising concern that doctors are over-prescribing psychiatric drugs to foster kids possibly because adults and doctors do not know what else to do with them. Other explanations offered for the high prescription rates were- foster children often struggle with emotional problems, children had greater exposure to trauma before entering foster care, state agencies were lax in overseeing the prescriptions, sometimes these drugs are overused as a chemical restraint for unruly children.
Some of the drugs that are used are not approved for use by young children. These drugs affect the central nervous system and can change behavior or perception. Several foster children are being prescribed 5 or more of the medications at one time, which can have severe side effects including diabetes and suicidal behavior. Little is known about the long term side effects of these drugs.
The DHS now looks forward to get these kids healthy and try to eventually get them to a point where they do not need medication at all.