Are Drugs Being Misused On Foster Kids?

Are Drugs Being Misused On Foster Kids?

CONROE, Texas, Oct. 18, 2006

(CBS) Colby Holcomb's mom concedes that the 8-year-old, who's been diagnosed with attention deficit disorder, can be a handful at home. But does such behavior merit the treatment Colby received in foster care?

Andrea Holcomb lost custody of her son when he was 7, after her ex-husband made allegations of sexual abuse, CBS News national correspondent Byron Pitts reports. These allegations later proved false — but in the meantime, Colby was placed in the Texas foster care system. For 18 months, he was in at least five foster homes. It's a time that still haunts Colby and his family.

Andrea says Colby was on at least 20 different drugs when he was in foster care. Yet, she says she has "no idea" why and says it was never explained to her.

While in foster care, Colby was also diagnosed as bipolar. According to his medical records, he was taking as many as four medications at the same time that gave him seizures.

"I woke up at the hospital with something stuck in my arm," Colby says.

He is not alone.

"I found babies, 2-year olds, 3-year olds being given mind-altering drugs," says Carole Keeton Strayhorn, Texas' state comptroller.

Strayhorn conducted her own two-year investigation into allegations that foster kids in Texas are overmedicated.

"Children in foster care in Texas are dying. Children in foster care are being drugged," Strayhorn says.

There are similar allegations being made in California, Ohio and Florida.

"In Florida, for example, foster kids younger than 5 years old were treated with psychiatric medications at a rate nearly four times higher than the general population of children receiving Medicaid.

Gwen Olsen, a former pharmaceuticals representative who quit her job and wrote the book, "Confessions Of A Prescription Drug Pusher," knows firsthand about the impact of anti-psychotic drugs on children.

"They clamp down on the central nervous system. In effect, they reduce your mobility and that sort of thing, so they are sort of like a chemical straitjacket," she says.

Psychiatrist Christopher Correll is leading a nationwide study on the impact of anti-psychotic drugs have on all children.

"It is a serious step to use an anti-psychotic, there’s no doubt about it. But I think it is also very important to realize that these medications are used under very serious circumstances to actually help patients who have serious symptoms," Correll says.

But if the foster care system is designed to protect children who've been harmed, why would they engage in this if in anyway it was harmful to children?

"To me, the true travesty of the situation is that we take children who just got a bum rap in life to begin with and they get into the system and are further abused chemically," Olsen says.

Colby Holcomb is home and feeling better. He is no longer taking any medications — but his mother worries how many Colbys might still be in the system.

©MMVI, CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.


warning: state care is harmful to children!

Psychiatrist Christopher Correll is leading a nationwide study on the impact of anti-psychotic drugs have on all children.

"It is a serious step to use an anti-psychotic, there’s no doubt about it. But I think it is also very important to realize that these medications are used under very serious circumstances to actually help patients who have serious symptoms," Correll says. 

What are "very serious circumstances", and "serious symptoms"?  Are they related to a child feeling deathly afraid, home-sick and worried?  Good Lord!  What is wrong with these doctors and policy-makers?  What deal-from-hell have they made with drug-companies?!?   Scratch that comment:  I'm afraid to learn the answer to that. 

You know, they use tranqulizer-guns on animals before they put them in a zoo.  Is that our government's answer to everything:  shoot first, cage and contain second, then point fingers to those asking questions?   

But if the foster care system is designed to protect children who've been harmed, why would they engage in this if in anyway it was harmful to children?

"Why?"  Because the foster-care system is a sad joke, littered with lies and corruption.  The most horrific part is how  easy it is to remove and damage an innocent child.  Lives are ruined every day because local and state "leaders" don't watch their work.  What are they thinking about?  They are thinking of their own hides.  They are thinking how other people's children are not their own, and they are thinking about their here and now, and their political future.  The men and women medicating children so they can endure adult-sized government failures are not remotely interested in long-term care, attention, or a child's future, that's for damn sure.

"To me, the true travesty of the situation is that we take children who just got a bum rap in life to begin with and they get into the system and are further abused chemically," Olsen says.

Take a kid away from his home, his family, his world, and shuffle him among strangers, then place him on drugs that numb his senses -- and expect what sort of fall-out?  Eventually these messed-with children are going to be in school classrooms, and neighborhood streets, and suddenly snap, because they are so messed-up in the head.  Then what?  More media coverage telling the same story over and over again? 

When does it stop?

What do our well-spoken, highly educated and concerned state leaders say about this long-standing pattern of medical malpractice and abuse?

Foster-care and adoption is ruining families everywhere.  When will it be enough?  How many more people need to suffer in heavily medicated silence?  When will the government-imposed madness stop?

I need a drink. 


Look at the state facts and figures

In order to appreciate the size and scope of this medicating problem, look at the facts and figures I found (below).  I believe the average John and Jane Public needs to see and learn the simple truth:  Foster-care has become a medical and moral nightmare and  Adoption has become a wealthy worldy industry profiting from the sale of babies. 

Someone is making money from the misfortune of mothers, fathers and children, and I find that morally bankrupt.

Key Facts: Texas (select another state)

24,529 Texas Children in Foster Care are Waiting for Reform

There are still many things that children in foster care can teach those who are on the front lines of advocating and helping them, by listening and giving them the tools to turn adversity into advance and tragedy into triumph.
-Texas Foster Youth, FosterClub Member

Children in foster care would benefit from federal financing reform, which would let states use funds flexibly to provide services before, during and after foster care. Savings could be reinvested: to reunite children with their families, place them with adoptive families, or provide guardianships when reunification and adoption are not possible.

In Texas, only 23.0% of federal dollars for child welfare can be spent flexibly to serve children and families. Approximately $60.8 million dollars out of a total of $260 million child welfare dollars are flexible.

Who are Texas's children waiting in the foster care system?

24,529 children in foster care
41% of foster children are between ages of 0 and 5
31% of foster children are between ages of 6 and 12
29% of foster children are between ages of 13 and 21
Average number of birthdays a child spends in foster care: 2 birthdays (23 months)
   Nationally: 2.5 birthdays (30 months)
50% of children experience three or more foster care placements
   Nationally: 42%
24% (5,873) of children live in group care or institutional settings
   Nationally: 19% (96,593)

What are Texas's foster children waiting for?

7,560 (31%) are waiting to be reunified with their birth families
   Nationally: 250,790 (48%)
9,915 (40%) are waiting to be adopted
   Nationally: 116,031 (22%)
Average time foster care children have been waiting to be adopted: 34 months
   Nationally: 42 months

Where did Texas's children go after leaving foster care in 2004?

10,842 children exited foster care
3,795 (35%) were returned to their parents
2,526 (23%) were adopted
2,965 (27%) left to live with relatives or via guardianships
325 (3%) "aged out" of foster care at 18 or older
314 (3%) left for other reasons (ran away, transferred, died)

*Data from AFCARS (2004), ASPE Claims Reports (2005), and ACF Budget Reports (2005).

Copyright © 2007 Kids Are Waiting, a project of The Pew Charitable Trusts
1025 F Street, NW, 9th Floor, Washington, DC 20004-1409

A Critical Look At The Foster Care System Medication of Children

In Washington state, one out of every five children in the foster care system is on potent mood-altering medications. Yet the state has no safeguards in place regulating their use to protect the children who swallow the potentially toxic pills.

The state does not chronicle the problems children experience with these drugs, nor are officials even certain how many of their wards take behavioral medications. And the ranks of foster children being given psychotropic drugs have swelled over the years, experts say.

Says Aija Guedel, former president of the School Nurses Organization of Washington: "When I see foster children, most of them are on a stimulant, anti-depressant or anti-psychotic - or usually all three."

What are the results on the children? According to a six-month investigation conducted by the Seattle Post-Intelligencer:

  • A 4-year-old girl was rushed to intensive care with an erratic heartbeat after her foster parents accidentally doubled her daily dose of anti-depressants - a dose already far above the maximum recommended for her age and weight. The foster parents said neither their doctor nor social worker had warned them of the hazards of the drug, amitriptyline.
  • A 5-year-old boy tried to kick out the windows in a bus, covered himself with feces and tried to run naked down the street after being given powerful anti-depressants. His foster mother said she never was warned of the side effects.
  • A 13-year-old boy sent into foster care in 1995 during the Wenatchee sex-ring trials heard voices and suffered memory loss after being put on high doses of the anti-depressant Zoloft. He later tried to kill himself.
  • Domico Presnell died. The wavy-haired 6-year-old failed to wake up in his Seattle foster home last April 21. A toxic level of amitriptyline was found in his blood.[1]
  • The psychotropic drug most often prescribed to foster children in Washington state over the past five years has been methylphenidate, or Ritalin, which costs the state about 17 cents per pill, according to the 1996 Formulary and Drug Use Guidelines used at Western State Hospital.

    The second most commonly prescribed pill was the anti-depressant imipramine, costing about 2 cents a dose.

    San Francisco youth activist Lyn Duff, herself a former foster child, describes her experience while in state care: "They put me on desipramine. A week later they took all the kids in a van to the doctor. He spent five minutes talking to us, with the other kids in the room."

    "It's not unusual for me to have a child 9 years old on two or three psychotropic medications at one time," says Dr. Sharon Collins of Mercy Medical Center in Cedar Falls, Iowa.[2]

    The use of psychotropic drugs to control foster children in state care has long been documented.

    In a landmark suit filed against the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, the American Civil Liberties Union blamed the child welfare agency for much of the child abuse in the state.

    One of four teenagers named in the class-action suit had been in state custody as long as he could remember. Although his mother and grandmother had told him they wanted him back, the 13-year-old had not received any services that might have helped to reunite his family.

    In the meantime, he had been "warehoused" for three months in the Henry Horner Children's Center, where he was routinely drugged with psychotropic medication and in danger of assault, according to the suit.[3]

    One of the numerous terms of the consent decree stemming from the suit describes the use of these agents to control foster children:

    By January l, 1992, DCFS shall convene a reform panel to review and make recommendations regarding its policies and procedures concerning (i) the use of restraint and seclusion on children in care and (ii) the use of behavior controlling drugs including a prohibition on the use of such medication for the punishment of children, the convenience of caretakers or as a substitute for programming for children's needs.[4]

    Has anything changed as a result of the Illinois action?

    Pia Menon, a former attorney with the Chicago Public Guardian's Office, was assigned to investigate the Columbus-Maryville Children's Reception Center operated by Catholic Charities.

    Her report, suppressed by Public Guardian Patrick Murphy, was described to author Renny Golden.

    Menon recounts her findings on the use of drugs to control foster children: "Many teenagers are on psychotropic medications. Almost every child who comes into the system ends up on some kind of psychotropic medication--we're talking about four- and five-year-old kids who are on Prozac and Ritalin..."

    "Give me a break--it's to quiet them down," she adds. "Generally, psychotropic medications take the place of nurturing."

    But the use of medications is not limited to group care facilities and the Children's Reception Center. Menon explains:

    Caseworkers prefer that the child is medicated. It helps the foster care parents, who may not be qualified to deal with a disruptive child. Staff often have no idea what a drug does to the child. They dispense it like aspirin. There is absolutely no one to monitor kids on multiple meds.

    What this all amounts to is a systematic assault on children who've already been removed from home, medicated, coded, misdiagnosed, therapized...[5]

    Prentis Caudill was a ward of the state. Both he and his sister endured the difficulties of placement in residential group homes and psychiatric facilities. "All you have to do is act up and they give you drugs," says Prentis. "The drugs were nice because they'd calm you down or put you to sleep for days."

    Adds Prentis: "They gave me Thyroxine. Sometimes your muscles twitch."[6]

    In California, judicial approval is required for giving psychotropic drugs to any foster child. Says Dr. Michael Malkin, who reviews the drugs for Los Angeles County judges: "The psychiatrist is usually beseeched by the group home operator to medicate the kids."

    Dr. Malkin tries to substitute milder medications that don't cause permanent facial tics, heavy sedation and other side effects.

    According to Malkim, the Judicial approval required in California deters doctors from dispensing risky anti-psychotic drugs en masse.[7]

    Oh, is that so?

    A 1997 Los Angeles Grand Jury report indicates that foster children are frequently medicated with psychotropic drugs.

    Not only are the children excessively medicated, but the conditions in group foster homes were found to be deplorable. The Los Angeles Times describes the Grand Jury findings:

    Many of the nearly 5,000 foster children housed in Los Angeles County group homes are physically abused and drugged excessively while being forced to live without proper food, clothing, education and counseling, according to a blistering report by the county grand jury.

    The Grand Jury found that children were given a variety of medications without the proper consent of a guardian or judge in nearly half of 158 audited cases. In another instance, a group home withheld drugs in hopes that a child would be ruled severely emotionally disturbed--thus drawing a higher rate of government payments.

    The Grand Jury also identified inadequate psychotherapy for the children, with sessions of as little as five minutes being held, although therapists were billing for full-length sessions.[8]

    Said Andrew Bridge, executive director of the Alliance for Children's Rights: "We need to have small homes of six beds or less to deal with these kids in a therapeutic way and not simply put them away or drug them."[9]

    The 1991-92 San Diego County Grand Jury reached similar conclusions, extending its examination of the foster care system in another direction. Among its findings:

    Caseworkers, investigators and attorneys believe that some foster parents routinely complain of behavioral problems, insist that those behavioral problems require mental health therapy and then seek additional funds for regular transportation to the therapist and special care needs. These claimed behavioral problems are subjective and are not capable of being confirmed by objective tests.

    The Grand Jury suggested that "foster parent claims of behavioral problems in foster children not previously identified as having the problems should be carefully investigated."

    In examining the improper use of controlling medications, the Grand Jury found that the medications in use ranged from mild depressants and hypnotics to strong psychotropic drugs.

    It determined that the lack of money for medical treatment, the financial pressures on medical providers and a generalized lack of medical records for foster children all contributed to make it possible for unscrupulous foster parents to obtain medication for children who did not need to be medicated.[10]

    A committee of the U.S. House of Representatives examined many of these problems years ago, concluding that the foster care and child welfare systems were in dire need of reform.

    A 1990 report issued by the Select Committee on Children, Youth and Families described the use of these mind-altering medications, and the bizarre treatments to which children in state care are frequently subjected: "In the state mental hospital in South Carolina, children who attempted suicide were stripped to their underwear, bound by their ankles and wrists to the four corners of their beds, and injected with psychotropic drugs."[11]


    Some critics charge that psychotropic medications are not only routinely provided as a method of controlling foster children, but as the means to obtain disclosure of non-events.

    In Wenatchee, Washington, where allegations of a bizarre and highly improbable "sex ring" involving several prominent citizens came to surface, children alleged to be victims are apparently being provided medications and therapy as a means to elicit disclosure, critics charge.

    Melinda Everett, who was among the primary witnesses for the prosecution, publicly recanted her testimony on a televised broadcast, claiming that it had been coerced.

    Immediately on the heels of her public recantation, Melinda was seized from her grandparents' home. Writes syndicated columnist Paul Craig Roberts: "For the past several months the child has been involuntarily locked away in a psychiatric facility where she is under the exclusive control of 'recovered memory' therapist Cindy Andrews. No one--not even elected state representatives--has been permitted to see her."[12]

    Cindy Andrews, who is under contract with the state, is among the defendants in a civil suit in which Melinda Everett is a principal witness.

    Melinda is not alone in her plight. More than a third of the alleged victims of the so-called "child sex ring" in Wenatchee were placed on psychotropic drugs paid for by the state once they entered foster care.

    Are the Wenatchee children truly victims of a sex ring that included dozens of people with a local pastor as ringleader, or are they victims of a state sanctioned machine determined to extract testimony from them at any price? Their stories include:

  • A 12-year-old boy taking the anti-depressant Zoloft who heard voices telling him to hang himself by jumping off a milk crate with a rope around his neck. His counselor worried he was suffering from memory impairment as a side effect of the drug. He originally was sent to Pine Crest, but later was transferred to an institution in King County where he tried to kill himself.
  • A 15-year-old developmentally delayed boy who became a chief witness in several of the cases after being sent to Pine Crest. He later attempted suicide while on psychotropic drugs.
  • A boy described in medical records as "in denial" and "non-compliant" after his parents were sentenced to prison on sex charges. At age 9, in April 1995, he tried to run away from the foster home he shared with two other alleged sex-ring children. Doctors increased his dosage of Zoloft, and the fourth-grader "tried to stick (a) metal object through his chest," according to a DSHS episode report. He then entered a Seattle psychiatric hospital, where he was prescribed the anti-depressant amitriptyline.
  • In the case of one 13-year-old girl, her medical notes indicate that Andrews "apparently would like her on medications." The girl later was given Paxil.[13]

    The greatest irony to be found among these tragic circumstances is that a significant number of foster children have been removed from their homes for reasons alleged to be related to "neglect" stemming from substance abuse by their parents.

    In Hawaii, an estimated 80% of cases involve substance abuse by parents, says John Walters, an assistant program administrator with its Department of Human Services.[14]

    While "historically, people have thought of substance abuse as an adult problem, substance abuse by parents has made it a children's problem, as well," said a spokesperson for the Massachusetts Department of Social Services.[15]

    Apparently, the child protective system has gone to great lengths to ensure that substance abuse is indeed "a children's problem," as its solution is all-too-often the traumatic removal of children from their homes, and the systematic turning of the children into drug-dependent wards of the state.

    CA NAACP Calls For Ending Use of Psychiatric Drugs on Foster You

    October 29, 2006
    Contact: Rick Callender, President
    (408) 406-5203 Phone

    CA NAACP Calls For Ending Use of Psychiatric Drugs on Foster Youth

    Says Foster Care Children should be protected from the financial incentives the

    Foster Care Industry receives for pushing psychiatric drugs on them.

    OAKLAND, CA - Mr. Rick Callender, president of the San Jose Silicon Valley branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) submitted a resolution to the State NAACP Convention calling for an end to the profit-motivated practice of using psychiatric drugs on foster youth. The resolution was unanimously passed today by the membership.

    Several investigations into Foster Care have recently exposed how group-home "parents" request and administer psychotropic drugs on foster youth at far greater rates than any other population. Since 1999 State & Federal regulations provide a financial incentive for Group Homes and Foster Parents to use psychiatric drugs on these children. California's deranged foster-care system pays higher rates when young people are drugged for even the slightest sign of misbehavior or upset. In July of this year, the Blue-Ribbon Commission on Foster Care Members were reportedly stunned to learn the overuse of psychotropic medications was an important area foster youth pleaded for reform.

    Mr. Callender said that, In February 2006 an FDA Advisory panel recommended a black-box warning that certain psychiatric drugs, like Ritalin, Adderall & Concerta, when prescribed to children can cause violence, suicide and sudden death. This resolution is significant since we already know that children of color make up a disproportionate amount of children within the foster care system. We must ensure foster youth are given proper medical care and only prescribed medically necessary medications, not just a drug to quiet them down and add dollars to their guardians pocket.

    Dr. Lawrence Hooper, a medical doctor and the Health Committee Chairman of the San Jose Branch said, Ever since the American Psychiatric Association admitted no lab tests exist to diagnose any mental disorder, the entire legitimacy of psychiatry has become questionable. Couple this with the 19 international warnings about how psychiatric drugs have been linked to causing diabetes, liver failure, violence, suicide and sudden death, it becomes apparent that strict constraints against psychiatry must be called for to protect children.

    2006 marks the three year anniversary of when Mr. Callender helped guide the passage of a national NAACP resolution that stated, Research by medical professionals have indicated considerable controversy and diverse opinion about the validity of childhood behavioral or learning disorders such as, but not limited to ADHD.

    San Jose/Silicon Valley NAACP website (

    Mind drugs given to hundreds in Fla. foster care

    By Kathleen Chapman, Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
    Friday, September 12, 2003

    An alarming number of Florida's foster children -- including more than a dozen younger than 6 and even a baby -- are being given drugs for depression, schizophrenia and other mental disorders.

    A Florida Statewide Advocacy Council report released Thursday said doctors prescribe the medications with poor documentation or with little state oversight. Some of the children on the drugs were not diagnosed with any psychiatric problem.

    Though commonly prescribed, most psychotropic drugs are not approved by the federal government for use in children.

    In a review of the files of 1,180 children, most in therapeutic foster homes, the advocacy council found 652 were on at least one psychotropic medication. About 44 percent of those receiving medications had no record of a medical examination in the file. In many cases, there was no evidence that doctors had the consent of a parent or guardian to prescribe the drugs. Many of the drugs were prescribed by primary care physicians, not psychiatrists who specialize in emotional and mental disorders.

    And in two-thirds of the cases, there was no evidence anybody checked for the side effects that can range from irregular heartbeats, permanent shakes and tics and worsening of the very symptoms the same drugs are supposed to improve.

    The discovery of preschoolers on psychotropic drugs was especially disturbing to the researchers, who included doctors, mental health experts and social workers.

    "Diagnosing mental illness in children at such a young age is extremely difficult as these children are unable to describe their symptoms adequately, if at all," the authors wrote.

    DCF officials questioned the study during a telephone conference Thursday, saying it was flawed. The 1,180 children represent a small sample compared to the 15,000 in foster homes. The children selected weren't random, but mostly those in therapeutic programs with a history of emotional and behavior problems.

    "Why aren't they outraged? DCF should be leading the charge," said Andrea Moore, a Broward County attorney and child advocate who has long questioned the oversight of medications.

    Last month, The Palm Beach Post told the story of Isaiah White, a Palm Beach County foster child injected at age 6 with the powerful drug Haldol at Sandy Pines in Tequesta. A psychiatrist prescribed the first-grader at least three other kinds of psychotropic drugs -- medicines that have an altering effect on the mind -- saying his behavior was dangerous to himself and others.

    Isaiah remains in a state psychiatric program, a year after his mother relinquished him to state foster care. DCF Secretary Jerry Regier said this week he is still looking into Isaiah's case.

    DCF officials conducted an internal investigation several years ago and found "that the use of psychotropic drugs in children in their care was not a problem," according to the report. But after a series of news articles in 2001, DCF appointed a panel to study the issue and suggest changes. If those recommendations had been applied, Moore said, "Isaiah and many other children like him would have been helped in a different way."

    DCF officials said Thursday they have never done their own comprehensive study, but began compiling a database six months ago that will track the prescriptions of all children in care.

    Celeste Putnam, DCF's acting deputy secretary for programs, said her agency would immediately look into the cases of the children under 6.

    Putnam said in many cases of very young children, the drugs likely were prescribed for medical reasons, not mental disorders.

    "How they picked up a 1 or a 2-year-old in that sample, I can't tell you," Putnam said. "That's pretty shocking."

    Putnam said state foster children never receive a prescription without a physician's evaluation. If caseworkers can't find the parent to get consent, they go to court to get an order. DCF gives foster parents guides about psychotropic drugs to help them understand proper administration and side effects of the medicine.

    And while the drugs aren't typically tested in or approved by the Food and Drug Administration for use in children, many doctors believe there is enough anecdotal evidence to prescribe them safely.

    Critics claim the state overmedicates foster children as a way to keep difficult children quiet and compliant. In psychiatric programs and crisis units, they say officials are tempted to medicate the children instead of trying to find out why they are acting out.

    One foster teen in a psychiatric ward was so drugged that she acted more like a passive Alzheimer's patient, said John Walsh, who represents foster children in Palm Beach County through the Legal Aid Society. Walsh said he has been increasingly concerned about the number of young children on antipsychotic medication in the past three or four years.

    Some children don't need it, he said, but Legal Aid can't usually afford to go to a second physician for another opinion.

    Other times the children have experienced so many traumas that they do need treatment with medication, Walsh said. Often a foster child has "been moved from foster home to foster home, to hotel, to crisis unit to foster home."

    "After that, I would need medication, too," Walsh said.

    The solution, he said, is both the simplest, and the hardest.

    "The real way to control his behavior was to put him in a stable, loving home six months ago," Walsh said.

    Pound Pup Legacy