In 2003, the Statewide Advocacy Counsel in a Red Item Report entitled “Psychotropic Drug use in Foster Care” reported the following:
“There has been a considerable increase in the prescription of psychotropic drugs in children and adolescents in the United States over the last decade. This utilization in Florida was brought to the attention of the Statewide Advocacy Council in 2001, with reports of widespread use occurring in children in foster care under the supervision of the
Department of Children and Families in South Florida. When an internal investigation by the department was conducted, it concluded that the use of psychotropic drugs in children in their care was not a problem. However, information received from the Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) revealed that more than 9,500 children in Florida on Medicaid had been treated with psychotropic drugs in the year 2000. As a result, SAC began to monitor the use of these drugs in foster children over the state. The use of psychotropic drugs by preschoolers was a disturbing discovery since most of these drugs have not been approved for use in young children by the Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA). While physicians are permitted to prescribe medications in ways that have not received FDA approval, there is very little data on the possible long-term consequences of using these drugs at such an early age. Further, diagnosing mental illness in children at such a young age is extremely difficult as these children are unable to describe their symptoms adequately, if at all. There was little documentation that appropriate written informed consent to give these medications to minor children was obtained from parents or guardians.
Side effects of these drugs are very serious and include decreased blood flow to the brain, cardiac arrhythmias, disruption of growth hormone leading to suppression of growth in the body and brain of a child, weight loss, permanent neurological tics, dystonia, addiction and abuse, including withdrawal reactions, psychosis, depression, insomnia, agitation and social withdrawal, suicidal tendencies, possible atrophy in the brain, worsening of the very symptoms the drugs are supposed to improve, and decreased ability to learn, tardive dykinesia and malignant neuroleptic syndrome. The FDA is currently reviewing reports of a possible increased risk of suicidal thinking and suicide attempts in children and adolescents under the age of 18 treated with the drug, Paxil.
the growing concern for the health and safety of our
children around the country, the FDA has a variety of
resources to help explain the current status of drug testing
and children. To read visit:
Effective July 2010, the Florida Legislature addressed the use of psychotropic drugs in foster children through the passage of § 39.407, Fla. Stat. The statute is a detailed approach to dealing with psychotropic drugs and children in foster care. The Florida Guardian ad Litem program has developed practice guidelines to correspond with the new statute. These guidelines are available under practice aids.
§ 39.407, Fla. Stat (2010)
Medical, psychiatric, and psychological examination and treatment of child; physical, mental, or substance abuse examination of person with or requesting child custody.