Last week, a seven-year-old Florida boy in foster care locked himself in the bathroom and hanged himself. He was taking Seroquel, a drug for bipolar disorder which is a psychiatric condition of severe mood swings. There has already been a Florida state-wide investigation and the Department of Children and Families study found that 2,699 foster children are on this type of drug.
That is 13 percent of foster children. It is estimated that only four to five percent of children in the general population are on atypical anti-psychotics.
What is Seroquel?
Seroquel, made by Astra Zeneca, is an atypical anti-psychotic, meaning that it is a heavy-duty drug given when the typical anti-psychotic drugs fail to be effective. One of Seroquel’s side effects is suicide. None of the atypical anti-psychotics are FDA-approved for young children. However, they can be used off-label, meaning that the doctor makes a judgment call in a particular case that the drug could be helpful.
Seroquel can be prescribed off-label for depression, and who would be surprised that a seven-year-old child in foster care might be susceptible to depression – without his parents, possibly siblings, grandparents and cousins also, and perhaps not loved at all.
There are multiple problems with Seroquel at all age levels and it is linked to diabetes, seizures, impaired judgment, and many other problems.
New Bill in the Florida Legislature
Ronda Storms (R-Brandon) is one of Florida’s U.S. senators and has referred to this practice of giving troublesome young children heavy-duty drugs as a “chemical straitjacket”. She has sponsored a new bill to reform the state’s medical requirements for foster children, raising the age at which they can legally be given anti-psychotic drugs from six to eleven and letting the children have a say in what drugs they take.
- “We are not just going to medicate them until they turn 18 and then dump them into adulthood,” said Storms. She is the chairwoman of the Children, Families, and Elder Affairs Committee.
Child welfare doctors and case managers have routinely violated the legally-required treatment plans and have not always documented which drugs have been given to foster children or why they were given. There are also communication gaps between the multiple services and individuals who care for foster children. Medical malpractice could be a part of this pattern. It is not clear yet whether any suit will be filed on behalf of this deceased child.
Storms summed up much of the situation by saying that drugs have replaced talk therapy for lonely children. The new bill would require the state to assign a volunteer guardian for each foster child to oversee that child’s mental health care. It would also require that proposed treatment plans be explained to each child and the child’s consent must be obtained before any anti-psychotic drug is prescribed.
Jan Montgomery is the president of the Florida Association for Behavior Analysis, the body that would train the new volunteer guardians.
- “What this means is less medication and more behavior analysis so that they are not just sedated little zombies,” she said.
If your child has been improperly medicated and you are wondering if you have any legal recourse, please contact our Mobile, Alabama office today for a free case evaluation.