Many Foster Kids Being Medicated; Report Examines Unauthorized Psychiatric Drugs

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TALLAHASSEE - Almost 2,700 foster children are on psychiatric medicines, including hundreds in Northeast Florida, even though the agency has no authority to give the drugs to more than 16 percent of those children, according to a state report issued Thursday.

The report follows an ongoing review by the Department of Children and Families after the assumed suicide this year of 7-year-old Gabriel Myers in Fort Lauderdale.

Gabriel was taking psychiatric, or psychotropic, medications. But DCF later found that those caring for the boy hadn't obtained the parental consent or court order required by state law.

According to the report, 2,669 children being cared for outside of their home - or almost 13.2 percent of foster children - are taking some form of psychotropic drugs. The agency couldn't find evidence of parental consent or a court order in 16.2 percent of those cases.

"It is inconceivable to me ... that the system doesn't have this right yet," said DCF Secretary George Sheldon, speaking to reporters after the agency released the information, a picture of Gabriel projected on the wall behind him.

Sheldon, who took over at DCF late last year, said there was no excuse for the agency to wait until the boy's death to make sure the law was being followed.

"In my opinion, there's absolutely no rational basis, no argument that can be made," he said. "We've got to get it right. We will get it right."

Sheldon also said he has rescinded a memo saying case managers didn't need to get parental consent or a court order if the drug was prescribed for a non-psychiatric purpose. …


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