National Center for Youth Law

Press Releases

State Agencies, Advocates to Discuss Use of Psychotropic Drugs on Foster Children

Kick-off of “Quality Improvement Project” in Sacramento Oct. 29


October 16, 2012

Edward Opton 510-835-8098, x3014, eopton(at)
Bill Grimm, 510-835-8098, x3016, bgrimm(at)

The federal Child and Family Services Improvement and Innovation Act (2011) requires all states to adopt standards for appropriate use and monitoring of psychotropic medications for foster children.  This new law presents an opportunity to reduce the alleged widespread overmedication and chemical restraint of foster children.

The State of California is responding to the new law with a Quality Improvement (QI) Project. The sponsoring state agencies, including the Departments of Social Services and Health Care Services, have announced a “kickoff” meeting for their QI Project to take place 10 am–2 pm, Oct. 29, 744 P Street, Sacramento.  This meeting is open to the public and all interested parties are encouraged to attend.

The Sacramento meeting will be an initial opportunity for “stakeholders,” including members the state Child Welfare Council, the state Child Welfare and Mental Health Directors’ Associations, and foster children and families, to advise the state agencies on changes they believe are needed.  This meeting follows a conference for representatives from all 50 states convened by the federal government in August.  Speakers at the national meeting explained the problems that lay behind the federal law: the very high rate of psychotropic medication of children in foster care.  The 50 states were asked to begin work on implementation as soon as possible.  Child welfare, mental health, and Medicaid agency representatives from all 50 states attended.

The National Center for Youth Law, which has recently launched its own initiative to reduce the overmedication of foster children – known as the PsychDrugs Action Campaign – will be attending the QI kick-off in Sacramento.

While the new federal law presents an opportunity to reduce overmedication and chemical restraint of foster children, it also presents opportunities for those who benefit from the status quo – especially the commercial interests who profit from sales of psychotropic drugs – to gain control of the regulation-drafting process. Those interests could potentially turn the medication control effort on its head so as to transform currently unofficial, unsanctioned, off-label practices into officially approved or even legally required drug administration policies.  It will be surprising if such efforts do not occur.

Other states will use various approaches to compliance with the psychotropic drug section of the Child and Family Services Improvement and Innovation Act.  The PsychDrugs Action Campaign will encourage all states to comply with the spirit as well as the letter of the new law.