Potent Pills: Parental Consent

Date: 2007-12-09

Potent Pills: Parental Consent

December 9, 2007

In Monroe County, a nine-page policy dictates how to obtain authority to provide medical care for foster children.

The policy notes that foster parents don’t have the legal authority to provide consent, and that county officials must be notified for “the prescribing of psychotropic medication.” The policy prohibits foster parents from seeking independent psychiatric or mental health counseling for a foster child.

The county tries to secure permission from biological parents before psychotropic drugs are prescribed to foster children. Two Family Court cases in 2006 focused on whether the county received proper consent for prescriptions. In both cases, Family Court Judge Marilyn O’Connor, who suspects the medications may be used too freely, claimed the county had not done enough to secure proper consent.

In both cases, county officials contended they had acted properly.

Syracuse-area psychiatrist Dr. Martin Irwin said many social service agencies provide too little information to parents about the possible side-effects of psychotropic drugs. Also, he said, agencies sometimes rely on social workers — and not medical or psychiatric professionals — to obtain consent.

“It’s like having the nurse tell you why you need surgery,” he said.


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