Entries in Foster Care (4)


Foster Kids on Too Many Meds: Is the Government Taking Action?

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The senator who spurred the Government Accountability Office to investigate the startling numbers of foster children being put on powerful, mind-altering drugs is calling on the Obama administration to follow through on its vow to find solutions to the issue.

“This is a deeply disturbing problem that demands immediate attention,” Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., wrote in a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius provided exclusively to 20/20. "…Unless our Medicaid policies properly reflect best medical practices, the result will be damaging to the program’s financial bottom line but, more importantly, to the health and welfare of our nation’s foster care children.” (See the full letter here.)

As 20/20 and World News reported during ABC News’ own extensive investigation of the medication of foster children late last year, the GAO found that doctors prescribe psychotropic medications to foster children at a rate of up to 13 times that of children in the general population. The GAO investigation was launched at the request of the Senate Federal Financial Management Subcommittee, which is chaired by Carper.

[Watch 20/20′s full report on overmedication in the foster care system here.]

A spokesman for the Health and Human Services Department said that the agency received the letter Tuesday and will be responding as soon as possible.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Boy, 12, Tells Congress of Years on ‘Stupid’ Meds

John Foxx/Stockbyte/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- A 12-year-old boy told Congress Thursday that he was medicated into a near-stupor with mind-altering drugs during the four years he bounced among foster care homes.

“I think putting me on all these stupid meds was the stupidest thing I’ve ever experienced in foster care and was the worst thing anyone could do to foster kids,” the boy, identified only as Ke’onte, told the Senate Subcommittee on Federal Financial Management, Government Information, Federal Services, and International Security.

The seventh-grader, who was adopted by a Texas family in 2009 and who ABC News has been following for a year, said he had tantrums as a foster child and was inaccurately diagnosed as bipolar and having ADHD.

“I’ve been in the mental hospital three times during foster care, and every time I had to get on more meds or new meds to add to the ones I was already taking,” he said. Ke’onte said his meds made him feel irritable, gave him stomachaches and affected his appetite.

“I remember having a bowl of spaghetti and had three bites and then I was done,” he said.

He said he would get so tired “it felt like I would collapse wherever I was in the house.”

Ke’onte’s testimony came as a Government Accountability Office report was released that found that the federal government had not done enough to oversee the treatment of foster children with powerful drugs.

The report, whose contents were revealed by ABC News on Wednesday, coincided with a nationwide ABC investigation on the overuse of the most potent mind-altering drugs on many of the country’s nearly 425,000 foster children.

Ke’onte, who was on up to four medications at a time during his years in six foster homes, said that therapy has helped him in a way that meds never did. “In therapy, you talk about the deepest thing and it hurts, but you can deal with it better the next time,” he said.

Now, he said, he is first chair in clarinet in his school band, participates in cross-country and has three small roles in the school play.

“I’m not only more focused in school … I’m not going to the office anymore for bad behavior and I’m happy.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Gov't Fails to Oversee Foster Kids' Drug Treatment, Study Finds

Hemera/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The federal government has not done enough to oversee the treatment of America's foster children with powerful mind-altering drugs, according to a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report to be released Thursday.

ABC News was given exclusive access to the GAO report, which capped off a nationwide yearlong investigation by ABC News on the overuse of the most powerful mind-altering drugs on many of the country's nearly 425,000 foster children.

The GAO's report, based on a two-year-long investigation, looked at five states -- Florida, Massachusetts, Michigan, Oregon, and Texas.  Thousands of foster children were being prescribed psychiatric medications at doses higher than the maximum levels approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in these five states alone.  And hundreds of foster children received five or more psychiatric drugs at the same time despite absolutely no evidence supporting the simultaneous use or safety of this number of psychiatric drugs taken together.

Overall, the GAO looked at nearly 100,000 foster children in the five states and found that nearly one-third of foster children were prescribed at least one psychiatric drug.

The GAO found foster children were prescribed psychotropic drugs at rates up to nearly five times higher than non-foster children, with foster children in Texas being the most likely to receive the medications compared to foster children in the other four states.

Although the actual percentages of children who received five or more psychiatric drugs at the same time were low in the five states included in the GAO report, the chances of a foster child compared to a non-foster child being given five or more psychiatric drugs at the same time were alarming.

In Texas, foster children were 53 times more likely to be prescribed five or more psychiatric medications at the same time than non-foster children.  In Massachusetts, they were 19 times more likely.  In Michigan, the number was 15 times.  It was 13 times in Oregon.  And in Florida, foster children were nearly four times as likely to be given five or more psychotropic medications at the same time compared to non-foster children.

Initially part of GAO's investigation, Maryland was later excluded from GAO's analysis "due to the unreliability of their foster care data" according to the report, a problem ABC News learned many states face.

Foster children were also more than nine times more likely than non-foster children to be prescribed drugs for which there was no FDA-recommended dose for their age.

For the most vulnerable foster children, those less than 1 year old, foster children were nearly twice as likely to be prescribed a psychiatric drug compared to non-foster children.

When Sen. Thomas Carper, D-Del., lead requester of the GAO report, first learned of the report's findings, he said, "I was almost despondent to believe that the kids under the age of one, babies under the age of one were receiving this kind of medication."

ABC News has reviewed dozens of medical studies published in recent years that echo GAO's findings -- research showing foster children receive psychiatric medications up to 13 times more often than kids in the general population.  In some parts of the country, as many as half of foster kids are on one or more psychiatric medications -- compared to just 4 percent of kids in the general population.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Obese Third Grader Taken from Mom, Placed in Foster Care

Digital Vision/Thinkstock (file photo)(CLEVELAND) -- A Cleveland third grader who weighed more than 200 pounds was taken from his mother after officials reportedly said she did not do enough to help the boy -- who suffered from a weight-related health issue -- lose weight.

“They are trying to make it seem like I am unfit, like I don’t love my child,” the boy’s mother, who was not identified, told the Cleveland Plain Dealer.  “It’s a lifestyle change and they are trying to make it seem like I am not embracing that.  It is very hard, but I am trying.”

Officials first became aware of the boy’s weight after his mother took him to the hospital last year while he was having breathing problems, the newspaper reported.  The child was diagnosed with sleep apnea and began to be monitored by social workers while he was enrolled in a program called “Healthy Kids, Healthy Weight” at the Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital.

The boy lost a few pounds, but recently began to gain some back, the Cleveland Plain Dealer reported.  At that point, the Department of Children and Family Services asked a juvenile court for custody of the boy, citing his soaring weight as a form of medical neglect, according to the newspaper.

Taking obese children from their families has become a topic of intense debate over the past year after one high-profile pediatric obesity expert made controversial comments in the Journal of the American Medical Association advocating the practice in acute cases.

“In severe instances of childhood obesity, removal from the home may be justifiable, from a legal standpoint, because of imminent health risks and the parents’ chronic failure to address medical problems,” Dr. David Ludwig co-wrote with Lindsey Murtagh, a lawyer and researcher at Harvard’s School of Public Health.

A trial is set for the boy’s ninth birthday next month to determine whether his mother will regain custody.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio