Foster kids drugged at a higher rate

Foster kids more likely to be overmedicated

ATLANTA -- After two failed adoptions, Mia Calvo spent most of her life in the foster system.

During that time she believes she was over-medicated.

"At one point in time I was on six different medications," Calvo said.

It's a common story for Georgia foster children.

"I had been taking medication since I was 10, forced to take it," she said. "I was ready to be off of it."


Calvo successfully weened herself off psychotropic medications, and she now works as an advocate with EmpowerMEnt, a group dedicated to helping foster kids. One of their biggest priorities is starting a conversation about the use of psychotropic drugs on foster children.

"Over-medicating young people in care is unacceptable," she said.

Psychotropic drugs can be antidepressants, antipsychotics or medication used to treat ADHD.

Recent numbers show that foster kids are significantly more likely to be on psychotropic drugs than non-foster kids.

"Psychotropic drug research cannot be done on children," Decatur Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver said. "We don't do research on children."

Representatives from the Georgia Department of Community Health recently testified in front of a house study committee on Children's Mental Health. They showed the state spent more than $22 million on psychotropic drugs in fiscal year 2015.

A report from the Government Accountability Office found as many as 39 percent of foster kids received psychotropic drugs. That's 11 times higher than non-foster children.

REPORT | Concerns remain about appropriate Services for Children in Medicaid and Foster Care

"This is a national issue," Oliver said. "There's national interest in this, and Georgia is part of the problem."

Oliver worked diligently on this issue, holding hearings and sponsoring legislation.

"It may be convenient to give a child a drug that will tranquilize that child if the child had been acting out in a bad or violent way," Oliver said. "But long-term tranquilzation of children is not good health management."

Due to increased attention to the matter, some improvement has been made in recent years. The Division of Family and Children Services hired a medical director whose main job is to monitor the use of psychotropic drugs in children. The state also moved to a single insurance provider which helps cut down on overlap.

"The more it's talked about, the more I believe things are getting better," Calvo said.




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