National Center for Youth Law


Ensuring Adequate Oversight for the Safe Administration of Psychotropic Medications to Youth in Foster Care

Children in Missouri foster care are routinely being placed on psychotropic drugs without adequate safeguards in place. The state foster care system’s abject failure to oversee and closely monitor the use of these powerful drugs exposes Missouri’s most vulnerable citizens to serious, and even permanent injury. It is a systemic violation of children’s constitutional right to be free from harm while in state custody.

Too often, foster youth, even very young children, are given these drugs as chemical straight-jackets as a means to control their behavior, rather than for medically accepted purposes. Serious, life-long adverse effects are common for children given psychotropic medications including seizures, irreversible movement disorders, suicidal thoughts, aggression, diabetes, and weight gain.

Given the possible debilitating effects of these drugs and the rates with which they are prescribed to children in foster care for purposes that are not FDA approved, it is important that the state maintain adequate safeguards to ensure that psychotropic drugs are administered safely and only when necessary. Building on NCYL’s expertise in developing and implementing such safeguards and its successful history of initiating impact litigation to reform child-serving agencies, NCYL is partnering with Children’s Rights, and Saint Louis University School of Law Legal Clinics to ensure Missouri enacts policies and practices that reduce the risk of harm to the children in its custody.

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