Taxpayer money used to overmedicate foster children
By Laura Strickler, Sarah Fitzpatrick
Children in foster care in five states are taking psychotropic drugs at a rate "two to over four times higher" than
non-foster children in Medicaid according to a draft of a new government report obtained by CBS News.
Data in the new report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) shows that in the five states examined,
609 foster children and over 1,100 non-foster children were taking five or more psychotropic drugs at one time, a
"high-risk practice" that lacks sufficient scientific data, according to experts consulted for the study. The report also
found that over 20,000 foster and non-foster children were taking dosages that "exceeded the maximum standards
published in medical literature."
Read a draft of the GAO report
Psychotropic drugs are used to treat mental disorders in adults and in some cases are approved for use in
children. Data from five states: Oregon, Florida, Massachusetts, Michigan and Texas was included in the report.
"The GAO report will hopefully spur states to strengthen their oversight and control over the effective management
of psychotropic medications prescribed to youth in foster care," said Dr. Mark Olfson, Professor of Clinical
Psychiatry at Columbia University who authored the key 2009 study on foster children and anti-psychotic use, "For
foster children with psychiatric disorders, careful medication management strategies are central to improving quality
of care," he said.
Almost 40 percent of children in the Massachusetts foster care system are taking at least one psychotropic drug
according to the report that is raising concerns among officials at the U.S. Department of Health and Human
In a recent letter to state Medicaid directors obtained by CBS News, the head of the U.S. Administration for Children
and Families said the agency has become "increasingly concerned about the safe, appropriate and effective use of
psychotropic medications among children in foster care."
The report also found almost 4,000 foster and non-foster care infants - under a year old - on Medicaid in five
states were taking psychotropic drugs. Researchers said the risks these drugs pose to children are "not well
The five states in the report spent $375 million for psychotropic prescriptions for children covered by Medicaid
including $59 million for children in foster care.
The GAO report will be the subject of a Senate hearing Thursday on Capitol Hill.