The federal government is stepping up oversight of psychotropic medication use among children in state foster care.
- A November 2011 letter by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to state child welfare directors asks states to “strengthen their systems of prescribing and monitoring psychotropic medication use among children in foster care.”
- A December 2011 Governmental Affairs Office report raises concerns about the risks of overmedicating children in foster care and calls on HHS to guide state Medicaid and child welfare agencies on best practices for monitoring psychotropic drug use among children in foster care.
In light of these developments, legal advocates may question how they can best advocate and make decisions for these children. This article, adapted from a recent ABA practice and policy brief, helps attorneys and judicial officers understand the proper role of psychotropic medications for these children, explains the benefits and drawbacks of medication, and supports a multimodal approach to treating children’s mental health disorders. A list of questions every judge and attorney should ask in cases involving psychotropic medications provides a practical framework for decision making.