Foster kids are often over medicated as a means of covering up their mental health issues. Some are drugged up on two or three psychological medications to the point where they’re little more than walking zombies. This represents yet another way in which children are abused by the Child Welfare System.
As one nurse reports: “Almost all kids coming into care these days five or over are on at least one psychiatric medication, which is of huge concern to me. I don’t think the seriousness of this is totally appreciated by the non-medical portions of DCYF….I’ve had five year olds come in on antipsychotic medication and these children aren’t psychotic.” (Kaufman-Cantor & Blease, 2006, p 10)
What’s happening to many foster kids is a perfect example of people using medication as a crutch rather than working on what would truly help a child. Being placed into foster care is a traumatic experience — typically more traumatic than any abuse or neglect children might experience in the home. Needless to say, kids who have had their entire life yanked out from under them are prone to acting out and exhibiting mental health issues. These problems aren’t created by chemical imbalances in the child, they are a reaction to what they’ve been through.
Yet rather than addressing the root of the problem, state workers and foster care agencies, having already abused a child once by tearing them from their home, abuse them again by doping these kids up to mask their psychological distress and make them easier to handle. I’ve seen some foster kids who were medicated into a virtual coma so that their providers didn’t have to deal with them. The poor kids slept all day long, and were cranky and irritable when you roused them from this drug induced slumber.
The overmedication problem is just another symptom of society’s misplaced belief in medication as the cure all for our problems, and the tendency to look for a cure that comes in pill form. Until we solve this problem, kids will continue to be put on medications they don’t need.