The Associated Press
MIAMI — Caseworkers with Florida’s Department of Children and Families are failing to comply with rules for giving powerful psychiatric medications to young foster children, according to a report.
The DCF report, dated Tuesday, reviewed the records for 112 foster children younger than age 6 being given the medications.
The review shows caseworkers failed to complete treatment plans, didn’t consult psychiatrists contracted by DCF and failed to obtain consent for the drugs.
DCF Secretary George Sheldon calls the findings “unacceptable.”
Four years ago, state lawmakers passed legislation to curb the use of mental-health drugs among children in state care. The law requires informed consent from a parent or judge, second-party review of doctors’ prescriptions for the youngest children, and annual reports to the state Senate.
The state has been reviewing mental-health drug use among foster children since 7-year-old Gabriel Myers hanged himself in May. He was given several psychiatric medications during a nine-month stay in foster care.
According to the study which was conducted between June 3 and June 5, caseworkers did not complete a treatment plan for 83 children, or 74 percent of the 112 whose files were studied. The treatment plans are designed to ensure that troubled children receive psychological care, in addition to drugs, and do not become overly reliant on powerful medications.
In more than 95 percent of the cases studied, the foster child’s doctor did not review his or her plans with a consulting psychiatrist under contract with DCF to ensure the children in state custody are well cared for.
And in 72 percent of the files studied, caseworkers had entered inaccurate data in the state’s computerized child-welfare database, called Florida Safe Families Network. Erroneous information included mistakes about the names of medications and dosages prescribed.
Caseworkers also had failed to obtain informed consent for the medications for 45 percent of the children studied.
“The deeper I get into this thing, the more my blood pressure rises,” DCF Secretary George Sheldon told The Miami Herald, which obtained a copy of the report on Tuesday. “This really is unacceptable.”
By Friday of last week, Children’s Legal Services had followed up on cases where there were clearly no informed consents or court orders.