Drugging Foster Kids: Let’s Do Something About It


This is an invitation to action.

Mad in America readers know that psychotropic medications, especially “antipsychotics,” often are used to sedate and restrain problematic people, including children—and not just any children, but foster children especially, and most of all, foster children in so-called “group homes.”

Agreement is widespread that foster kids are over-medicated: too many, too young, too many drugs per child, on dosages that are too high and are maintained too long, often for years on end.

The PsychDrugs Action Campaign of the National Center for Youth Law invites Mad in America readers to join us to make positive changes now.

Why Foster Children?

Foster children are a lucrative market for psychotropic drug sales. Unlike adults, they can’t say “no, I won’t take any more of that drug.” Unlike children living with parents, their parents cannot say “I don’t like what that drug is doing.” Responsibility for prescribing is diffused confusingly among foster parents, caseworkers, child welfare supervisors, group home administrators, and prescribers. All are involved, but their roles in medication decisions are overlapping and ill-defined. It is easy for each to say, “it wasn’t my decision.

One of the consequences is that in some states about half of children in group homes are medicated with psychotropic drugs. Many foster children are dozing through their childhoods and teenage years in a semi-sedated haze, a haze that is profitable for the drug industry and convenient for administrators, staff, and foster parents who prefer to minimize demands on their time and attention.   The losers are the kids. A dozen years in a chemical straitjacket is no preparation for adult independence.

But Mad in America readers already know that.


What We Are Doing About It

Since 2012, we have been working to educate the public and, especially, to educate the responsible California state agencies, the Department of Health Care Services, which authorizes payment for the drugs, and the Department of Social Services, which oversees the county agencies that are the “parents” of foster children. We hope the state agencies will take action, but we are not waiting on them. We are asking the California legislature to act by passing four bills in the current session, Senate Bills 238, 253, 319, and 484.


What About You?

This is where you, a Mad in America reader, enter the picture.   Legislators don’t have time to become experts on most of the proposals that they enact or discard. To a substantial extent, they count on interest groups to make the case for or against each proposal. The pharmaceutical industry, the congregate care industry, and organized medicine have well-paid lobbyists. They will make sure that the voice of the status quo is heard in the legislature’s corridors and offices. As a Mad in America reader, you can make yourself heard, too.

Let us help you to be heard. Send an e-mail to: [email protected]

Put “psychdrugs action campaign” in the header or the message box. We will reply with recommendations for concerted action that will require a minimum of your time for maximum potential effect.





Mad in America hosts blogs by a diverse group of writers. These posts are designed to serve as a public forum for a discussion—broadly speaking—of psychiatry and its treatments. The opinions expressed are the writers’ own.


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  1. This is great. Right now I am tied up with the May 16 anti-shock demos. But drugging children is definitely the issue I want to be involved in next. I will write you privately about this.

    And to Mad In America, I am very happy to see this emphasis on supporting actions that try to actually DO something about the abuses practiced by psychiatry.

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  2. I am SO on it! This is both a particularly egregious issue, and one that people are particularly willing and able to relate to. Whether you have personal lived experience, know a child who has experienced this, or have a professional relationship to foster kids, you should really put your energy into helping this campaign. It may become a model for foster care systems across the country!

    —- Steve

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  3. “On label” drugging is a horrendous thing, but “off label” drugging, and of children, too, is something that is so wrong, we should be able to do something about it. I’m gratified to see that somebody is making an effort to effect change. California isn’t alone in having a problem that needs to be addressed, and alleviated. If we could get initiatives going in other states, that would be stupendous. There is a great need for doing just that. I’m very much with you on this project, and I hope to participate.

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  4. I am sure most of these kids are being told the standard psychiatric lie claiming that they have chemical imbalances and broken brains and ‘need’ medication (drugs) .

    We need to think of a way to reach foster kids directly and tell them the whole truth about psychiatry. If these kids knew the truth they would have a much more difficult time enforcing pill compliance and mass drugging them.

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  5. There are many foster parents that are wonderful and doing the best by their charges with the resources they have (which are meager) but, to those who are working on the insider track, I think foster “parents” should be called foster “guardians”– not to be pedantic, but because they aren’t the children’s parents, they ARE guardians and the title should reflect their responsibility more than their power and status.

    Foster care systems need more money, and what’s being spent on drugs is a good place to start.

    Unfortunately, today’s foster children are likely to be tomorrow’s tale of unintended consequences on a large scale.

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