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Managing Psychotropic Medications for Children and Youth in Foster Care

A doctor examines a young girl.On any given day, nearly 30 percent of the 400,000 children in foster care are taking at least one psychotropic drug to manage social-emotional and mental health problems.

In many cases, these medications can be life-saving and life-giving.  However, there is limited research to guide the use of these drugs with children and youth, and such medications carry a high risk of side effects.  It’s absolutely essential that they are used with care and as part of a comprehensive treatment plan.  This is true for all children, but especially our most vulnerable – those in foster care.

This week, the Administration for Children and Families, along with its partners in the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), brought together child welfare, Medicaid, and mental health leaders from all 50 States and the District of Columbia to work collaboratively to strengthen efforts in this area.

During the meeting, Because Minds Matter: Collaborating to Strengthen Management of Psychotropic Medications for Children and Youth in Foster Care, State teams were able to learn from leading experts and their peers around the country.  Most importantly, they worked across systems to enhance their states’ plans for monitoring and troubleshoot barriers to implementation.

States have participated enthusiastically in all ACF activities related to psychotropic medication use with children and youth in foster care.  They demonstrate an inspiring commitment to ensuring that young people get the right treatment at the right time and in the right amount.

We were also honored to have the participation of several remarkable young alumni of foster care share their experiences with the attendees.  Their voices and the voices of the young people in foster care today are essential to this important work.

Because Minds Matter is one component of ACF’s broader efforts to ensure that children in foster care with social-emotional and mental health challenges receive the treatment they need, when they need it, to heal and recover from the impact of maltreatment.  We’ve also been disseminating information, hosting webinars, and aligning our efforts to ensure the appropriate use of psychotropic medications as part of larger efforts to improve the well-being of children and youth in foster care. 

These young people have complex needs, but they also have incredible promise.  We must do everything we can to help them realize it.

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