National Center for Youth Law

STRATEGIES

Judicial Authorization of Psychotropic Drug Administration to Foster Children
SB 253

This legislation initially attempted to  mandate the application of health care standards by the judiciary when authorizing psychotropic drugs to children in foster care.  No psychotropic drugs would be authorized without prior medical exams of the children, and on-going medical monitoring must occur.  For treatments with the greatest risk, a pre-authorization review by a child and adolescent psychiatrist must be obtained.  The Legislation was approved by the legislature in 2016 but vetoed by the Governor. Current efforts are focused on providing a second opinion from a child and adolescent psychiatrist for the riskiest treatments.

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Overview

California is one of a very few states in which the authority to make this decision is removed from the parents of a dependent child and given to the courts.  In the 15 years since its enactment, the hope for reducing the percent of foster children and youth given powerful psychotropic medications has not been realized.  Current law provides no guidance to the courts as to how it should go about deciding to grant or deny an application for the use of psychotropic medication by foster children.   SB 253 was intended to provide the courts with key factors to consider when making these potentially life-changing medical decisions, and create a more rigorous process in line with the serious risks associated with the administration of these powerful drugs.

Documents

SB 253 Proposed Text

SB 253 Fact Sheet