Foster Children May Receive Three Times Higher Levels of Prescription Medications

Foster Children May Receive Three Times Higher Levels of Prescription Medications

Children involved in the foster system have already experienced neglect or some type of abuse, but recent research suggests they may also receive high numbers of prescription medications. A 2010 report published by Medco Health Solutions indicates close to half (42 percent) of all kids in the foster system are being prescribed drugs to alter or modify their moods; many have prescriptions for three or more medications. Findings suggest providers take a closer look at how prescriptions are administered to children in the foster system, especially in terms of focusing on the child’s individual needs for emotional recovery.

Overall, about one-third of U.S. children in the age span from 10 to 19 years receive a prescription medication for an ongoing condition. Since 2001, however, the Medco Health Solutions report says drug prescriptions for children are rising for conditions including diabetes, asthma and psychotic conditions. Findings from a National Institutes of Health study also point to a quickly rising level of mood-changing drugs given to foster children, in comparison to the total children’s population.

Some studies suggest mood-altering medications may be given to foster children up to three times more often than non-foster children. School psychologist Charles Manos says the problem may lie in a societal trend to treat children’s symptoms with drugs instead of trying to learn more about the unwanted behaviors. This may be especially true for foster children, who have already gone through some type of disturbance or violence at the hands of a caregiver. For these children, symptoms may be more pronounced, thus prompting higher numbers of prescribed medications.

Manos fears that people may falsely believe a prescribed drug can actually improve a cure or disorder – when in reality, drugs are designed to help with the symptoms. In terms of psychotropic medications, or those known to change a person’s mood, children can become detached and act so different that parents and school officials may not be pleased with the results. Still, the drugs have been reported to be increasing in numbers at live-in children’s treatment centers for mental illness and mood disorders. One children’s treatment center study showed that more than half (55 percent) of its patients who are foster children were receiving mood-altering medications.

Experts who serve foster children as clients believe closely monitoring children’s dosages and side effects is critical; some prescriptions even require testing a child’s liver functioning and blood to prevent possible health hazards.

Yale School of Medicine clinical associate professor of pediatrics Dr. Jack Fong encourages people to consider a healthy give-and-take when it comes to children’s prescriptions. Fong suggests not looking for the fastest cure for the symptoms, but rather a plan that relates the child’s individual problems.

Overprescribing of medications to foster children remains a serious concern. Some experts, however, say drug therapy should not be considered negative as a whole because it can produce positive effects when children have gone through serious abuse and are embarking on a journey toward wellness.

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