Daytona Beach News Journal
By DEBORAH CIRCELLI
More local foster children are on psychotropic medications than the state average, according to a state review done following the suicide of a 7-year-old foster child in South Florida.
The state Department of Children & Families released a report Thursday showing 2,669 foster children 17 and younger are on one or more psychotropic drugs, including 127 in Volusia, Flagler and Putnam counties.
Locally, that amounts to 16.5 percent of all children in foster and group homes or with relatives or other foster placements compared to 13 percent statewide.
In more than 400 of the cases statewide, or 16 percent of the cases, there was no consent by a parent or a court order as required by law for the child to be prescribed medications which the DCF secretary said is “inconceivable.” Locally, there was no consent on three cases or 2.3 percent.
The local circuit had one of the highest percentages of foster teens, ages 13 to 17, on one or more psychotropic medications — 40.4 percent of foster children compared to 28 percent statewide.
Rachel Smith, interim chief executive officer of Community Partnership for Children, the local foster care agency, said she was surprised the local numbers are higher than the state average and the agency will be looking into why that is the case.
The drugs affect the central nervous system and can change behavior or perception. They are prescribed for depression, anxiety, schizophrenia and other psychiatric conditions. Some are used to alleviate pain.
Smith is more concerned about the 6- to 12-year-olds because the report shows 21.6 percent were on such medications and most are in foster homes. Many of the older teens are in group homes, Smith said, where in some cases the children receive therapeutic services as well.
“The biggest surprise is the younger kids,” she said.
Ray Salazar, chairman of the Community Alliance, a local DCF advisory board, said he will bring the issue up before the Community Alliance on June 10 and ask local DCF officials to look into why the local area has higher numbers.
He said the board will not take sides as to whether children should or should not be on such medications, but “it bares more of an investigation.”
DCF secretary George Sheldon said in a teleconference with reporters he has serious questions when it comes to giving children psychotropic medications and that it should be done as a “last resort” after a full review by medical professionals.
DCF has had a workgroup looking into psychotropic medications and the death of Gabriel Myers on April 16 from apparently hanging himself in the shower of his foster parents’ Margate home.
— The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Statewide, 13 percent of 2,669 children in foster care — including those living with relatives and in foster and group homes — are on one or more prescriptions for psychotropic medications. In the local area which includes Volusia, Flagler and Putnam counties, 16.5 percent or 127 children are on the medications. The local numbers show:
5 AND YOUNGER: Five children or 1.37 percent are on one or more psychotropic medications compared to 0.81 percent statewide.
6- TO 12-YEAR-OLDS: 46 children or 21.6 percent are on one or more psychotropic medications compared to 17.6 percent statewide.
13- TO 17-YEAR-OLDS: 76 children or 40.4 percent are on one or more psychotropic medications compared to 28.7 percent statewide.
CONSENT: 72 children had court orders for medication, 52 had parental consent and three had no consent.
SOURCE: Florida Department of Children & Families