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NSCAW, No. 17: Psychotropic Medication Use by Children in Child Welfare

Published: May 15, 2012
Abuse, Neglect, Adoption & Foster Care
National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-Being (NSCAW), 1997-2014 and 2015-2022 | Learn more about this project
NSCAW: Research Briefs

This brief uses data from the National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-Being (NSCAW) to examine the use of psychotropic medications by children involved with the child welfare system (CWS). Research has suggested that children living in out-of-home or foster care may have unnecessarily high rates of psychotropic medication use; however, this research has limitations. Prior research on psychotropic medication use has relied primarily on Medicaid data, which does not permit examination of medication use in relationship to mental health needs and typically does not distinguish children in foster care by type of foster care placement. Children eligible for Medicaid living in foster care may be living formally with kin caregivers, in group homes or residential placements, or in more traditional nonrelative, foster parent homes. These various types of foster care placements may be associated with different rates of psychotropic medication use or various levels of mental health need. Prior research also does not provide estimates of psychotropic medication use among children who remain at home with at least one biological parent after reports of maltreatment, or children living in informal kin caregiver arrangements. This research brief examines psychotropic medication use across in-home and a variety of foster care placements for children involved with the CWS.

Last Reviewed: April 29, 2019