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NCYL has initiated a national project on the psychotropic medication of foster children. Every day, more than 20,000 foster children in the US are medicated with psychotropic drugs, sometimes to a point of sedation that leaves them lethargic, "zonked out," and blocked from the normal activities of growing up.
Last year, President Obama signed the Child and Family Services Improvement and Innovation Act, effective October 1, 2011. The law requires that every state child welfare agency must adopt "protocols for the appropriate use and monitoring of psychotropic medications" among children in foster care.
Two months after the law went into effect, three federal agencies -- the Administration for Children and Families, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration issued a joint letter to all state child welfare and Medicaid directors. The federal agencies suggested a multi-agency approach to psychotropic medication issues. They recognized that a comprehensive approach requires collaborative work on Medicaid as well as child welfare policies to bring practices affecting foster children within the scope of accepted medical guidelines. Perhaps most important, the federal agencies announced that they intend to convene a meeting with the states on August 27 and 28 to work on psychotropic medication and foster care issues.
NCYL believes the regulation will succeed only when child-centered organizations and individuals make it clear to state and federal administrators, to Congress, and to state legislators that this is an urgent issue on which they need to take action. In the coming months, NCYL will publish background documentation, recommend action, and organize support from organizations and the public.