By CATHERINE DOLINSKI
TALLAHASSEE – While state officials celebrate Florida’s much-improved adoption rate this week, inquiries continue into the prescription of psychotropic drugs for children still in foster care.
Gov. Charlie Crist kicked off “Explore Adoption Day” on Wednesday by announcing at a roundtable discussion that 3,776 children found homes through the state’s adoption system last fiscal year. That breaks the previous record of 3,674 adoptions in 2007-2008.
As well, the number of children in foster care has dropped since 2007 from 30,000 to less than 20,000, said Jim Kallinger, the governor’s chief child advocate.
The discussion was mainly celebratory — until it was Mirko Ceska’s and Regina Ceska’s turn to talk about their 12-year-old adopted daughters.
The Ceskas told Crist that while in foster care, the girls had been prescribed 11 pills a day, including the anti-psychotic drug Seroquel. Regina Ceska, a nurse, said the dosage of Seroquel was far larger than what she administers to her geriatric patients – and even at those low doses, she said, state law requires monitoring patients for side effects and documenting results every eight hours.
“This drug alters the brain, and it is unconscionable to administer it to young children whose brains are still developing,” she said.
Psychotropic drugs became a hot issue after Gabriel Myers, a 7-year-old foster child in South Florida, hung himself in April. Myers was taking an anti-depressant that can trigger suicidal thoughts in children. Audits by the Department of Children and Families have since shown that doctors and case workers have too-often failed to comply with legal rules for psychiatric drug treatment.
DCF Secretary George Sheldon said Wednesday he was inviting the Ceskas to appear before the work group he appointed to evaluate the Myers case.
“Regrettably, the story they’ve told is not new to me,” Sheldon said. “Ultimately … it’s about everybody who works with these kids, needing to work with that child as if it’s their own child.”
The Gabriel Myers work group meets Friday in Tampa from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at DCF’s office at 9393 N. Florida Avenue. Members of the public may attend or listen in by calling (888) 808- 6959 (code: 413-7303).
Reporter Catherine Dolinski can be reached at (850) 222-8382.