A new report finds that foster children are often given powerful psychiatric medicines without regard for proper safeguards.
The report, coming Monday from the inspector general's office at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), finds that 1 in 3 foster kids sampled in five states received the drugs without treatment plans or follow-up, the Associated Press reported. Both steps are considered standard for proper psychiatric care.
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And while some children may be getting medicines they don't need, others may be going without drugs that can help them. Many kids may not be receiving drug therapy that could help them better socialize or concentrate at school, the report found.
The drugs under review included those used to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), anxiety, PTSD, depression, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Foster kids were more prone to receive these meds than kids in the general population, the report found.
Foster children "are at greater risk of not getting the medications they need, but equally important, they are at risk of getting powerful medications that they do not need," Ann Maxwell, an assistant inspector general, told the AP.
Poor planning or follow-up can have tragic consequences for children, the report noted. In one case, an 11-year-old boy in foster care was initially placed on two meds after being diagnosed with anxiety, ADHD and other issues. But his foster mother had difficulties getting refills, and when drug therapy lapsed the child began displaying destructive, disruptive behaviors.
According to the report, the state in which the boy lived had no rules regarding follow-up with foster parents regarding a child's medications.
The report authors are recommending that the HHS Administration for Children and Families work with states to improve oversight on a case-by-case basis.
Responding to the report, the agency said that it might require additional legal authority to do so. The care of foster children is the shared responsibility of federal, state and local agencies, the AP noted.
Complicating the issue is the fact that the well-being of any one foster child is typically divided between foster parents, birth parents, relatives and case workers -- upping the odds that miscommunications between those parties will affect the child's medical care.
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