Drugs and Foster Care: Myers Report Critical of DCF

Jacksonville Observer

A draft report written by a work group investigating the April 2009 suicide of a Margate boy says children in state care are often being given mind-altering drugs for behavioral problems instead of being treated.

The draft report, released Thursday, stems from the death of Gabriel Myers, a 7-year-old who hanged himself with a shower hose in his Broward County foster home. A DCF investigation found that Myers had been on psychotropic drugs, but that proper consent had not been obtained regarding the treatment and that the prescribed drugs were not accurately reflected in his case files.

Department of Children and Families Secretary George Sheldon appointed a work group to study the Myers death and the use of psychotropic drugs on foster kids. Earlier this summer, the department revealed that 3,020 of 19,761, or about 15 percent, of foster children were found to be on the high power drugs.

And now, the Myers work group is saying that many children might be receiving drugs unnecessarily.

“Psychotherapeutic medications are often being used to help parents, teachers, and other caregivers calm and manage, rather than treat children,” the report reads.

Sheldon told reporters earlier this year that he was not anti-drug, but that the Myers’ work group findings regarding the number of foster children on psychotropic drugs raised serious questions.

In Myers’ case, the group found that no individual was looking out for his needs and that there were numerous red flags signaling problems. However, they were not addressed. The report also criticizes the individuals and agencies involved in Myers’ cares.

“Reports on his behavior, medication, and life changes were not fully and regularly shared among those charged with ensuring his welfare,” it reads.

The draft report made nine suggestions, including that the doctor prescribing the medicine should have ongoing communication with the child. It also suggests that youth and families be consistently provided with continuous information regarding mental health disorders and treatments.

“These principles should be accepted and clearly articulated as necessary and appropriate for the treatment of children within Florida’s child welfare system,” the report concluded.

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