Psychotropic Medications and Children in Foster Care

Psychopharmacology is one way to manage mental health disorders in children and youth. Yet for children in foster care, medication combined with a lack of understanding about their mental health backgrounds and trauma histories has the potential to cause more harm than good. A new policy brief produced by the American Bar Association (ABA) makes recommendations for practice that can support healthy psychopharmacology plans for children and youth in care.

The brief outlines the benefits and drawbacks of psychotropic medications and common diagnoses in infants, children, and youth. The brief also lists the American Academy of Child and Psychiatry’s recommendations for the use of such medications, including:

  • Complete a psychiatric evaluation prior to beginning pharmacotherapy. 
  • Obtain a medical history and conduct a medical evaluation prior to beginning pharmacotherapy. 
  • Develop a plan to monitor the development of side effects, the need to increase or lower dosages, or the need to change medications entirely.
  • Devise a specific plan for tapering off medications to avoid abrupt termination.

The brief also provides a three-page factsheet on medication types and possible side effects. 

Psychotropic Medication and Children in Foster Care: Tips for Advocates and Judges, by JoAnne Solchany, is available here on the ABA website.

You can also view the Use of Psychotropics among Children in Foster Care Webinar Series here.

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