DCF officials to discuss suicide of 7-year-old Margate boy

Miami Herald
BY AMY SHERMAN
asherman@MiamiHerald.com

A group of officials from the Department of Children & Families and other child advocates will meet Thursday in the aftermath of the hanging death of a child in foster care. The work group will listen to the experiences of two young adults who spent time in the foster care system.

A medical director at a school in Massachusetts is also expected to speak at the meeting in Fort Lauderdale. He will discuss the best practices for mental health in child welfare. DCF secretary George Sheldon formed the work group as part of the investigation into Gabriel Myers’ death and the practices of prescribing powerful drugs to foster children.

Gabriel, 7, hung himself in the bathroom of his Margate foster home in April. He had been prescribed several psychiatric drugs during his nine-month stay in foster care.

A Miami Herald article that showed Gabriel had been on several drugs, including anti-depressants associated with suicide risk, prompted DCF to investigate the practices of prescribing such drugs to children.

A recent state review of more than 100 foster care children receiving psychiatric drugs revealed that child welfare administrators are ignoring rules designed to protect the children. For example, caseworkers have failed to seek a second opinion from a psychiatrist before administering mental-health drugs to children younger than 6.

Four years ago legislators passed a law to reduce the amount of psychiatric drugs prescribed to children in state care. That law requires consent from a parent or judge, among other rules.

The work group will next meet July 6 in Tallahassee.

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