More Florida Foster Children on Psychiatric Drugs

The drugging of Florida’s foster children is again in the news. As a story out of Tallahassee reports:

And while the number of foster children reported to be taking the medicines has risen from 2,669 in early June to 3,100 in numbers released Thursday, the proportion doing so without consent has dropped steeply, from 16.2 percent to 6.1 percent.

Whoa! Something is wrong here. Wasn’t the law enacted behind this study because the percentage of children in foster care on psychiatric drugs was so much higher than the percentage of children in general on psychiatric drugs? Now we read that although consent has been attained in more cases that figure has actually risen.

State figures show 488 children in the agency’s 19-county Northeast Region – which includes Duval, Clay, Nassau, St. Johns, Flagler and Baker counties – are taking the medicines. In June, about 22 children – about 5 percent of those taking the drugs at the time – did not have consent; that number is now 18 children, about 3.7 percent.

Procedures are being followed a little more closely, but this is only in order to come more closely in line with the law. Also, while these procedures are being followed more closely, court orders are being favored over parental consent.

Much of the shift, though, has taken place by obtaining consent from courts. For example, 46 percent of children in the Northeast Region taking the drugs in June had consent from parents, with 44.8 percent taking the medicines under a court order.

According to Thursday’s figures, 42.3 percent of children using the drugs are now doing so with parental consent, with court orders now accounting for about 53.1 percent of children being treated.

Statewide, the proportion of children taking drugs under court order has risen from 43.4 percent in June to 51.1 percent now.

We are talking about children less than 6 years of age. Advocates are, of course, worried about the obvious question; given the severe physical and emotional impact some of these psychiatric drugs can have on the persons using them, how informed is the consent being given to use these powerful drugs on children?

Any procedural change made for the protection of Florida’s foster children has to be more than a matter of mere bureaucratic reshuffling if it is to be truly effective. If judges collude with Mental Health workers in the drugging of foster children, while skirting the authority of parents and guardians, the very serious issue from which the situation arose in the first place is not being dealt with.

A task force examining the use of drugs on Florida’s foster children will soon be issuing a report. Hopefully, out of this report, protections will be instituted that can lower the percentage of Florida’s foster children on psychiatric drugs rather than increasing that percentage.

As can be seen here, it is more than a matter of simply following procedures to come in line with a law that was previously being broken. If the law cannot serve the purpose for which it was intended, to lower the number of foster children on psychiatric drugs, maybe further legislation needs to be enacted that will result in the achievement of that aim.

There are other things, after all, to be done with children besides labeling them troubled, and giving them powerful and potentially harmful psychiatric drugs.