Hundreds of Northeast Florida foster kids on psychotropic drugs

Florida Times Union
Brandon Larrabee

TALLAHASSEE — Almost 2,700 foster children in state care are on pyschiatric medicines, including hundreds in Northeast Florida, even though the agency has no authority to give the drugs to more than 16 percent of those children, according to a state report issued Thursday.

The report follows an ongoing review by the Department of Children and Families after the assumed suicide earlier this year of 7-year-old Gabriel Myers in Fort Lauderdale.

Gabriel was taking psychiatric, or psychotropic, medications. But DCF later found that those caring for the boy hadn’t gotten the parental consent or court order required by state law.

According to the report Thursday, 2,669 children being cared for outside of their home are taking some form of psychotropic drugs. The agency couldn’t find evidence of parental consent or a court order in 16.2 percent of those cases.

“It is inconceivable to me … that the system doesn’t have this right yet,” said DCF Secretary George Sheldon.

In the Fourth Circuit, which includes Duval, Clay and Nassau counties, 205 children in foster care are taking at least one psychotropic drug. That number is 136 for the Seventh Circuit, which includes St. Johns, Putnam, Flagler and Volusia counties, and 76 in the Eighth Circuit, which includes Baker, Union, Bradford, Gilchrist, Alachua and Levy counties.

The agency found no authorization for 22 children, or almost 5 percent, in the agency’s 19-county Northeast Region, which includes the Fourth, Seventh and Eight circuits, along with the Third Circuit.

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