COMMENTARY: Medicating foster youth isn’t always the answer

January 24, 2020 /

It’s not uncommon for foster youth to be put on medication for a long period of time. This makes me question if the foster care system is over medicating as a form of behavior control. And if that’s what’s going on, why is medication the answer to working with youth who have experienced trauma? 

Think back to your childhood, when you would run, scream, and sometimes act defiant because that’s what children do. Today in the foster care system, foster care staffers may not understand the serious side effects of medication and how to properly treat trauma. 

Psychotropic medications, which target the brain and central nervous system, can

be beneficial on a low dose; however, the American Association of Directors of Nursing Services says they should only be used for up to 14 days. The Child Defense Fund reports one in four foster care youth are taking psychotropic medication. 

Understanding this and knowing how long some foster youth are on medications is very important. 

Sometimes, medication is the answer but not for everyone. It isn’t universal, especially since all foster youth have experienced different types of trauma.  

What if there was another way to deal with trauma? 

I think it’s time to start asking the foster care system what is going on, and why it is allowing children to be on multiple heavy doses of anti-psychotropics that researchers say have very serious long-term side effects? 

Most foster youth, like myself, enter the system with heavy trauma that may or may not cause mental health issues. 

In my experience, these concerns come about when a foster youth tells the group home staff or foster parent about feeling sad, anxious or any other feeling of concern. Then, the foster youth is taken to the doctor. When I saw the doctor, I spoke with the doctor for just five minutes via a web chat. 

I told my doctor I was feeling very anxious and depressed, and without even considering other options, she was ready to write a subscription.

Understanding that foster youth are more likely to suffer from mental health issues is key to understanding why this population is being drugged at such alarming rates. 

There are a few things to consider. Why aren’t the doctors analyzing the child’s diet or the living situations or the lack of support? 

Chris Kresser, a pioneer in functional medicine, says depression can be linked to gut bacteria or nutrient deficiency, such as Omega 3 deficiency, Vitamin D deficiency, low thyroid, iron and more. 

Imagine if just by changing a child’s diet, along with exercise, serious mental health issues can be removed or decreased. 

Western medicine is great, and we need it, but maybe it’s not doing enough. 

The generations of foster youth should be on healthy diets rather than medication. This could contribute to a stronger mind to handle all the harsh realities foster youth may go through while in care.