Daily Archives: January 3, 2011

Foster Child Care and Evidence Based Punditry – How to improve policy discussions

A post on Peachpundit examines a draft bill by Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver which would limit the authority of the Department of Family and Children Services to require children to take prescribed psychotropic medications.  The pundit is shocked that a bill would be drafted to allow children to make such decisions.  She then impugns the Representative’s credibility for drafting HB 23, citing a lack of experience in psychiatry or medicine.

Accidentally, I heard a representative from the Barton Child Law and Policy Clinic speak to this issue on WABE FM– how foster children were medicated far more frequently than their counterparts in other states and non-foster children in this state.  This “over reliance on medication” is known to affect the foster children’s performance in school, as well as social relationships.  An op/ed written by Rep. Oliver succinctly states her reasons for the bill.  Since the state via their foster parents are their guardians there is no one but the child left to question this practice — hence the legislation.  Of course, the legislation is a starting point for discussion – not a final solution.

So, it seems the bill was drafted using evidence compiled by a credible organization which relied upon studies from medical and policy professionals.  Because the pundit did not bother to a) interview Rep. Oliver, or b) simply google the topic (psychotropic foster children) — readers are left to assume the conclusion is correct with regards to both the facts presented and the conclusion reached.

My Googlesearch found from Science Daily News News a brief on a study by The Tufts Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI) which notes:

  • Estimated rates of psychotropic medication use in foster care youth, however, are much higher (ranging from 13-52%) than those in the general youth population (4%)
  • The majority of states in the multi-state study reported an increasing trend in the use of psychotropic medications among youth in foster care, specifically regarding: Increased use of antipsychotics, antidepressants, and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) medications;
  • Increased polypharmacy (the use of more than one psychotropic medication at the same time); Increased medication use among young children; and Increased reliance on giving medications “as needed” and “blanket authorizations” for such drug use in residential facilities

So – there is evidence sufficient to cause the author, and the advocates, to drop a draft bill which should create some discussion this session.  Interestingly, Georgia Politico has a post which takes a different tack on the bill:

However, this bill is different. Foster Children should have their prescription’s monitored by doctors and appointed guardians. They are frequently transferred between state institutions, temporary homes, and foster families. It would be difficult for any one person to keep up with their medical history, so centralizing such information in the Department of Human Sercies, which oversees the Foster Care system, is a good idea.

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