Youth in Foster Care and Psychotropic Medications

Making Healthy Choices: A Guide on Psychotropic Medications for Youth in Foster Care looks like a graphic novel, but its photo-heavy format and cartoon speech balloons carry a serious message. Designed to appeal to youth, the booklet walks the reader through the decisions that have to be made when mental health problems—short- or long-term—need to be addressed.

Often, the quick solution to dealing with behavior issues of youth in foster care has been to prescribe psychotropic medications. Recent publicity about the high numbers of medicated children and youth in foster care has caused policymakers and agencies to revisit this issue and to consider alternative ways of helping children and youth—many of whom have experienced trauma because of abuse or neglect and removal from their parents.

Making Healthy Choices was developed by a collaborative committee of individuals from the Children’s Bureau and other Federal and State agencies and private organizations. Youth in foster care were part of the committee and contributed to the content and review of the final publication.

The booklet discusses medication, but it also discusses alternatives to medication, and it includes vignettes that describe teens’ mental health dilemmas. It includes worksheets and lists of questions that youth or their caregivers can ask doctors or other health-care professionals.

The booklet is posted on the website of the National Resource Center on Youth Development, which offers a number of resources for youth in foster care:

The booklet is currently available in English, and a Spanish version is in development.

1 Reply to "Youth in Foster Care and Psychotropic Medications"

  • Edward Opton
    November 4, 2012 (4:59 pm)

    I have reviewed the Children’s Bureau’s “Making Healthy Choices” pamphlet carefully on behalf of the PsychDrugs Action Campaign.

    Unfortunately, the pamphlet is highly likely to have effects exactly the opposite of its author’s intention. It probably will increase the number of foster children on psychotropic medications.

    Even worse, in some cases youths who follow the pamphlet’s instructions will expose themselves to prosecution for felonies and misdemeanors, and some will be convicted.

    Readers who would like a copy of our analysis may request it by e-mailing eopton[at]

    Edward Opton, Ph.D., J.D.
    PsychDrugs Action Campaign
    National Center for Youth Law
    405 14th Street
    Oakland, CA 94612