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John William Tuohy lives in Washington DC

Want to make the world a better place for those who can't help themselves and need you? Start with foster care.





How Heroin is Hitting the Foster Care System

Timothy Dick’s office receives all kinds of reports of child abuse and neglect. Perhaps a child has a broken bone, or is underfed, or has been left home alone for too long.
But when caseworkers drive to the child’s home to investigate, they often discover the same root cause. “What we’re finding more and more is that the parents are addicted to opiates. And more often than not, it’s heroin,” said Dick, assistant director of child protective services in Clermont County, Ohio.
In Ohio and other states ravaged by the latest drug epidemic, officials say substance abuse by parents is a major reason for the growing number of children in foster care. In Clermont County, east of Cincinnati, more than half the children placed in foster care this year have parents who are addicted to opiates, Dick said.
The number of children living in foster care started rising in 2013 after years of decline. Last year, about 415,000 children were living in foster care, according to federal statistics released last week. Fifteen percent of them hadn’t yet passed their second birthday.
It’s not clear how many child-welfare cases nationwide involve parents abusing drugs or alcohol, said Nancy Young, director of the federally funded National Center on Substance Abuse and Child Welfare.
But she suspects that most cases do: “That’s what all the caseworkers and judges are saying.”
Added Pressure on State Systems
Numbers emerging from the states show how rising heroin use is putting pressure on child-welfare systems.
In Ohio, 23 percent of child-welfare cases investigated in 2013 involved heroin or cocaine, up from 19 percent in 2010, state records show. Seventy percent of children less than a year old who were placed in foster care that year had parents who were using those drugs, according to the Public Children Services Association of Ohio (PCSAO), a coalition of county child-welfare agencies.
In neighboring Indiana, Republican Gov. Mike Pence linked the spike in children moving through the child-welfare system—18,925 as of July—to drug abuse, especially of heroin, and hired 113 new caseworkers this year to help handle the load.
And in Vermont, substance abuse was cited in more than a third of phone calls to the state’s child-protection hotline. Last year, 1,326 Vermont children were in state custody, up 33 percent in one year.
“Young children are coming into state custody in unprecedented numbers. This is primarily being driven by parental heroin use,” writes Cindy Walcott, Vermont’s deputy commissioner for family services.
Social workers point out that drug abuse does not always result in child neglect. But parents might be so consumed by addiction that all they think about is getting high.
Officials in the three states say child-welfare cases that involve drug addiction are particularly challenging because parents have limited time to prove that they’re able to safely care for their children and get them back.
But kicking a drug habit—particularly when the drug is heroin—can be a lifelong battle.
Federal law requires that a child be reunited with his family or put up for adoption after spending 15 consecutive months in foster care (or any 15 over a 22-month period). “As soon as the child-protection agency files the case with the court, the clock starts ticking,” said Angela Sausser, executive director of PCSAO.
Many parents can’t recover in time. Relapse is common with opioids and heroin, Sausser said. And that’s assuming parents can start drug treatment. Waiting lists are often long in Ohio and Vermont, particularly for intensive services like clinics where parents can detox with the help of medication.
When a parent has to wait three to six months simply to enter a treatment program, that’s critical lost time, Sausser said.
Pursuing Better Approaches
Several states are tackling the problem by expanding addiction services.
Ohio, for example, has launched a pilot program aimed at helping pregnant women who use opiates deliver healthy babies. It’s also working to license more drug addiction treatment providers, the state Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services said.
The Ohio agency’s services are administered locally. Since the state expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, local boards have been able to take money that used to go to assisting uninsured residents and shift it toward nonmedical services, such as drug-free residential housing for recovering addicts.
Young, of the national substance abuse center, backs the expansion of the kind of hands-on, and often small-scale, programs that have been adopted in some states. In Illinois, three counties are served by a “recovery coach” program paid for by a federal funds and administered by a nonprofit. Parents get help navigating addiction treatment and additional support, such as parenting classes and help finding jobs and housing.
Specialized court dockets, such as family drug courts, can also help. Ohio’s Supreme Court has certified such dockets in 20 courts. Participating families go to court every week or two, along with their caseworkers from child protective services and their drug treatment provider, so the court can check up on them. The extra accountability pushes parents into treatment faster, and helps them complete treatment and reunite with their children, Dick said.
Vermont is expanding a program that wraps more support around parents. The state Department of Children and Families divides the state into 12 districts. In six of them, when caseworkers go out to a home to investigate a possible case of child abuse, a social worker from the Lund Family Center, a nonprofit based in Burlington, goes with them.
“Our staff goes out on that first call and screens the family for substance abuse right then,” said Kim Coe, director of residential and community treatment at Lund. Lund staffers help get parents spots in treatment programs and try to ensure that they actually start treatment, whether that means offering encouragement or finding transportation to their first appointment.
Although a Lund screener only monitors the parent until he or she enters treatment, that’s enough to improve outcomes for families, Coe said. If the Vermont Legislature approves the necessary funds, she said, the program will expand to serve the whole state.
Over the years, community organizations, states and the federal government have tested new approaches.
Those that serve families best, Young said, help parents get into treatment and stay sober. Often, such approaches bring together everyone involved, from child-welfare caseworkers to the judge overseeing the case. “We now know what works,” she said. 






B.C. teen killed herself the day after she aged out of foster care

 Carly Fraser’s mom wants a review, but government won’t investigate because she was no longer in care
 BY ROB SHAW AND LORI CULBERT, VANCOUVER SUN OCTOBER 9, 2015 9:33 AM

VICTORIA — The day Carly Fraser turned 19, the troubled teen lost whatever foster care supports had helped her battle years of mental illness and addiction.
Twenty hours after her birthday, in a moment of despair, she threw herself off the Lions Gate Bridge. Her body was never found.
Carly’s tragic journey through B.C.’s child welfare system was marked by abuse, neglect and confusion, her mother Lisa Fraser said Wednesday.
But the government won’t review her case, answer questions or examine what prompted her to jump from the bridge on Dec. 21, 2014.
Instead, the children’s ministry said because Carly committed suicide 20 hours and 35 minutes after she turned 19, she had aged out of the system and her case wasn’t eligible for review.
Her mother travelled from Burnaby to the legislature Wednesday to seek answers to what happened during the four years Carly was in ministry care before she took her own life.
“I’d like a review,” Fraser said. “Because I want answers to how the decisions were made, who made them, why they made them, and why they wouldn’t listen to anything I said.”
Stephanie Cadieux, minister of children and families, expressed sadness at the suicide, but did not reopen the case. Instead, she asked her staff to double-check whether the policy denying a review was properly applied.
Carly’s case highlights issues raised in a 2014 Vancouver Sun series of stories that depicted the challenges for youth leaving care: foster kids lose their social workers and financial payments on their 19th birthdays, leading to high rates of homelessness, unemployment, poverty, substance abuse and incarceration as most struggle to navigate the complicated adult welfare system.
B.C.’s Representative for Children and Youth, Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, has urged government to extend foster care for 19-year-olds and also improve supports for those aging out of care.
The ministry “lost track” of Carly in the system, as it does with many other kids, Turpel-Lafond said.
“There was the view with people who worked with (Carly), who were responsible for her care, that she was somehow service resistant,” said Turpel-Lafond, using a social work term to describe kids who don’t respond to help.
“So they basically threw up their hands and let her drift.”
Turpel-Lafond said her office is considering a review of Carly’s case, but also wants the government to provide more services and supports for 19-year-olds who suddenly lose government help.
Cadieux said Wednesday she’s tried to improve the system.
“It’s not true they age out with no supports; there are actually a lot of supports available to youth as they make that transition,” she said.
“But we do know there’s always more we can be doing. We’re looking at that. The reality is my ministry has a mandate to service children up to the age of 18/19 and not beyond.”
Fraser was unimpressed by what she heard from Cadieux and Premier Christy Clark at the legislature Wednesday. Both refused to speak about Carly’s case, due to what they called privacy restrictions.
Carly’s case started when she was 15. She had attempted suicide, was using drugs and couldn’t cope with her mother’s depression and panic attacks. Fraser said she signed a voluntary care agreement with the ministry to place Carly in the Southside Group Home in Burnaby, believing it would give her more help and support.
Instead, it marked the start of a downward spiral for the Burnaby teen. Social workers moved her from the group home into an unsupervised basement suite where she was raped. She quit school, quit her job and ran away from the next group home, Fraser said. Carly spent time on the streets and was in and out of hospital for suicidal thoughts and borderline personality disorder.
She wouldn’t speak to her mother, Fraser said.
After she jumped from the Lions Gate Bridge, her mother found her journal.
“She wanted to die,” Fraser said. “And she didn’t trust anybody.”
Opposition NDP leader John Horgan said government can’t improve the child welfare system if it doesn’t review and learn from cases like Carly’s.
The abandonment of children after the age of 19 is a “continuing theme,” Horgan said.
In May, Turpel-Lafond issued a scathing report on the death of 19-year-old Paige Gauchier, who died of a drug overdose 11 months after aging out of care.
Turpel-Lafond said Paige was a vulnerable young woman left without proper support at age 19, after a lifetime of neglect in foster care that included moving 90 times, attending 16 different schools, and being the subject of 30 child-protection reports and 40 police reports.
In a more recent case, foster youth Alex Gervais was approaching his 19th birthday when he jumped or fell to his death from a fourth-floor window last month.
Young people in provinces and states that have increased the age of care to 21 or 25 have much more promising futures.
Since The Sun’s series ran in February 2014, there have been incremental improvements in B.C., such as more grants or free post-secondary tuition to former foster children, expanded housing and supports, improved training on work skills, rent supplements, and a one-stop website.
A government promise to hire 200 more social workers will be complete in January, Cadieux said.
But B.C. continues to lag behind other provinces.
The Gervais case in particular has prompted renewed debate over supports for youth aging out.
Doug Kelly, grand chief of the Sto:lo Tribal Council and a co-founder of the delegated aboriginal agency tasked to care for Gervais, believes the teenager feared being cast aside on his 19th birthday.
“The real problem here is the aging out policy,” Kelly told The Sun recently. “One of the struggles I’m sure Alex was confronting was wanting to be independent but not being ready yet. But he was given an artificial deadline by the ministry: You are 19, buddy, don’t let the door hit your ass on the way out.”



Kinship Foster Care on The Rise
Josh Kovner

NEW BRITAIN (Ct) — It boiled down to an emergency.
After the tragic death of her son, Sonia Levy-Reid's twin grandsons, then 3, were on the verge of entering the unpredictable foster-care system. The sister of the children's mother had been taking care of the boys. The sister called Levy-Reid one day in the late winter of 2014 and said she was ending the arrangement.
The boys had experienced more trauma in their young lives than any child should. Levy-Reid, her husband, Eddie, and their other adult son, E.J., were the only people standing between the boys and an emergency shelter.
Levy-Reid decided to make what for her and Eddie will be a life-long commitment — and then she took action.
"I had to call people I knew who had car seats," Levy-Reid recalled. She picked up the boys and brought them to her lovingly appointed home on New Britain's Hawthorne Street, where they have remained, and have prospered.
With little preparation, Levy-Reid and her husband had joined the fastest growing group of foster parents in the state and the country — relatives caring for grandchildren or nieces or nephews.
It's still foster care, so it's still a very challenging proposition; some kinship placements don't work out. But when it does, it can be the best outcome for a child outside of a stable home life with their mother and father, said Margaret Doherty, who directs the Connecticut Association of Foster and Adoptive Parents.
She noted that grandmothers raising grandchildren is nothing new, but in the world of foster care, a child's kin had been, until recently, a largely untapped resource.
In January 2011, 21 percent of the roughly 4,000 children in the care of the Department of Children and Families were placed with relatives. Four years later, kinship homes account for 40 percent of the placements, two percentage points less than the number of children living in traditional, non-relative foster homes.
Recently, kinship placements have spiked even higher. In June and July, 49 percent of foster children were placed with kin. In August, the figure was a shade under 54 percent, the highest in DCF history.
"The whole foster-care landscape has changed," said DCF's Linda Dixon, who runs the division of adolescent and juvenile services.
The department, along with other child-protection agencies across the country, has struggled to recruit and retain non-relative foster families. Some of these traditional foster parents have said they didn't receive enough support from DCF, or didn't have enough information about the medical backgrounds of the children to adequately understand and respond to health and behavior problems.
While Dixon says the department still needs traditional foster families and has worked to improve the support system, kinship care has become the first option for DCF during Commissioner Joette Katz's four-year tenure.
The department struck gold when Levy-Reid called a DCF regional office told a case worker that she had the boys.
"I said, 'we're here. Before you guys do anything, let us know,'" Levy-Reid said.
DCF, in short order, made the placement official, but Levy-Reid was already doing her thing, filling notebooks with daily observations of the two boys, who are very bright but who are hyperactive and still showing the aftereffects of trauma.
Levy-Reid, an experienced mental-health worker at Connecticut Valley Hospital in Middletown, said she combined her written observations with the knowledge she already had of her grandsons' lives. She shared her conclusions and questions "with everybody, DCF, their teachers at school."
She said the boys have "a great group of teachers," and that all involved — the school, counselors at the Wheeler Clinic who see the boys at home, the DCF, and Levy-Reid's large and very helpful extended family — are focused on helping the boys to get past their behavior problems and to enjoy childhood.
Had her family not stepped up, "the boys would have gone into the system," Levy-Reid said in an interview Thursday at her dining room table. "Not only that, they probably would have been separated. Most people don't want two kids."
Saturday, DCF was scheduled to host a combination gala, award ceremony and conference for kinship families. Dixon said the goal was to learn the families' most pressing needs and strengthen the support the department provides.
Doherty said that not all relatives are like Levy-Reid. She said some have never known the children that they agree to take into their homes, and that sometimes the situation proves unworkable.
"But I agree with the approach. And a lot of the time, it does works out, where the family is really capable," said Doherty. She said Connecticut has become a leader in kinship care.
"I want other relatives to be encouraged to take on a child," said Levy-Reid. "Sometimes they shy away, feeling it's too much responsibility. But the kids need the adults in their lives; they need their families."



In 1962, six year old John Tuohy, his two brothers and two sisters entered Connecticut’s foster care system and were promptly split apart. Over the next ten years, John would live in more than ten foster homes, group homes and state schools, from his native Waterbury to Ansonia, New Haven, West Haven, Deep River and Hartford. In the end, a decade later, the state returned him to the same home and the same parents they had taken him from. As tragic as is funny compelling story will make you cry and laugh as you journey with this child to overcome the obstacles of the foster care system and find his dreams.

http://www.amazon.com/No-Time-Say-Goodbye-Memoir/dp/0692361294/
http://amemoirofalifeinfostercare.blogspot.com/
http://www.amazon.com/No-Time-Say-Goodbye-Memoir/dp/



ABOUT THE AUTHOR

John William Tuohy is a writer who lives in Washington DC. He holds an MFA in writing from Lindenwood University. He is the author of numerous non-fiction on the history of organized crime including the ground break biography of bootlegger Roger Tuohy "When Capone's Mob Murdered Touhy" and "Guns and Glamour: A History of Organized Crime in Chicago."
His non-fiction crime short stories have appeared in The New Criminologist, American Mafia and other publications. John won the City of Chicago's Celtic Playfest for his work The Hannigan's of Beverly, and his short story fiction work, Karma Finds Franny Glass, appeared in AdmitTwo Magazine in October of 2008.
His play, Cyberdate.Com, was chosen for a public performance at the Actors Chapel in Manhattan in February of 2007 as part of the groups Reading Series for New York project. In June of 2008, the play won the Virginia Theater of The First Amendment Award for best new play.
Contact John:
MYWRITERSSITE.BLOGSPOT.COM
JWTUOHY95@GMAIL.COM




Outreach Is Key On New Medicaid Guarantees for Aged-Out Foster Youth

By Leah Burdick

 “Don’t take me to the hospital. Don’t take me to the hospital!”
That’s all Joel Urzua could think about when the police officer asked if he needed medical assistance. Uruza had just been rear-ended hard by a drunk driver on a Los Angeles freeway.
Uruza was so disoriented he couldn’t remember his last name, but he could remember one thing… he didn’t have health insurance, and costly hospital bills could ruin him.
“I lied and told them I was fine,” Uruza said. Uruza is a former foster youth who emancipated from the foster care system and lost his medical coverage.
What Uruza didn’t know was that the Affordable Care Act, which went into effect January 1, 2014, included a provision that requires states to provide medical coverage to former foster youth who exited foster care at age 18 or older but are still under the age of 26. This special provision grants foster youth the same coverage allowance as other young adults who stay on a parent’s insurance plan until the same age.
Youth emancipating from foster care must be automatically enrolled in Medicaid coverage. Uruza falls into a unique “gap” group of foster youth who left foster care prior to the new law, lost coverage and is now eligible to re-enroll because he is under 26.
Through an astonishing stroke of luck, a few weeks later Uruza received an email about his medical coverage eligibility, registered and was able to take care of his injuries. Absent that, he might still be suffering in silence.
Tracking former foster youth can be a challenge, and many still do not realize they are eligible for coverage. Every year it is estimated that 20,000 annually “age out” of foster care across the United States.
Uruza’s home state of California is one of a few states that extend coverage to any state resident who exited foster care at age 18 or older, regardless of the state the youth was in foster care. At the moment, the federal Department of Health and Human Services does not require states to enroll youths who were in a different state’s foster care system.
To reach this special “gap” group, California child policy, research and advocacy organization Children Now launched the “Covered ‘Til 26” campaign—an aggressive outreach program dedicated to educating young adults, organizations and county agencies about former foster youths’ coverage eligibility.
Funded by The California Wellness Foundation through year-end 2016, Children Now runs a youth-friendly website (Coveredtil26.org) on how former foster youth can retain or enroll in Medi-Cal. The group even provides individual guidance for those struggling with the process.
“Former foster youth are a vulnerable group that too often lacks adequate support to navigate the transition to adulthood successfully,” said Fatima Morales, Policy and Outreach Associate at Children Now. “They are much less likely than their peers to have health insurance but they tend to have more health care needs due to abuse, neglect or trauma experienced during childhood.”
Like the Affordable Care Act, the Medi-Cal extension to age 26 for former foster youth has had its kinks.
“The health care registration systems weren’t programmed to appropriately enroll former foster youth in the Medi-Cal program,” Morales said. “So some former foster youth who are eligible have received incorrect eligibility determinations. Children Now has worked aggressively with advocates to raise awareness of these technical issues with state and county agencies, stakeholders and even the media to ensure these fixes are a priority.”
Oscar Sanchez falls into the “gap” group. He and his three siblings entered foster care after their single mother left home to run an errand and never returned. Sanchez, who now works and attends college in San Diego, struggled with the Medi-Cal registration process.
An avid cyclist, he broke his clavicle and several ribs after hitting a pothole while training for a bike race. In the emergency room he learned that he had registered incorrectly, so all he could get was a sling and some pain killers to avoid paying out of pocket.
“I contacted Covered ‘Til 26 and Fatima helped me fix my health care coverage,” Sanchez said. “It was pretty hectic at first, but after completing a one-page document I’m covered, have gotten better care and I see an Orthopedist for my injuries.”
Erica Ontiveros of Orange County wasn’t taught proper dental hygiene as a child in foster care; as a result she had a mouth full of painful cavities. Medi-Cal coverage allowed Ontiveros to visit a dentist for treatment. Had she waited much longer to treat the cavities, Ontiveros would have required much more invasive root canal procedures.
“I’m really grateful for Medi-Cal. It has been a turning point for my health,” acknowledged Ontiveros.
To date, the Covered ‘Til 26 campaign has connected approximately 6,500 former foster youth to information and resources about extended Medi-Cal coverage and how to enroll in or retain coverage. Children Now has partnered with foster care alumni groups, community groups, direct service providers, news organizations and California legislators to help spread the word to current and former foster youth.
Former foster youth living in California who have questions or wish to sign up for Medi-Cal should visit Coveredtil26.org. Former foster youth living in other states should click here to find registration details for their state.
Leah Burdick is an adoptive mom and founder of the Foster Coalition, a group that works to elevate the national consciousness about foster care.






The drugged children of foster care
By Gerald K. McOscar
A February, 2014 Wall Street Journal article, “Drugged as Children, Foster Care Alumni Speak Out,” examines the upsurge in strong antipsychotic drugs prescribed for children in Medicaid and foster care in the past decade and a half.  It should be required reading for every parent, teacher, counselor, caseworker, and judge who has or may have contact with the child welfare system.
I have been a court-appointed attorney for indigent parents in the Chester County, Pennsylvania Juvenile Dependency Court for about a decade. 
“Dependency” is a legal term of art and encompasses truancy; aggression; ungovernability; parental neglect; and physical, sexual, or emotional abuse.
For me, the most disturbing thing about these most disturbing of cases is the widespread use of antipsychotic medication to treat behavioral problems in children.  Children, both in home and in foster care or other institutional settings, some as young as three and four, are routinely prescribed antipsychotic medication for a variety of disruptive behaviors, from hyperactivity and rebelliousness to mood swings and poor grades. 
From my observations, the majority of these kids are exhibiting normal childhood behaviors, albeit writ large, not because of mental illness, but because of the vacuum, and resultant absence of structure and discipline, caused by broken homes. 
In the Journal piece, David Crystal, a professor of health services research at Rutgers University, based on 2009 data from Medicaid and private insurers, estimates that 12% to 13% of kids in foster care take these medicines.  That compares with about 2% for children on Medicaid but not in foster care and about 1% for those with private insurance.
The largest diagnostic groups receiving the drugs in foster care in 2009 were those with disruptive-behavioral disorders and attention-deficit/hyperactive disorders.
“These diagnoses involve difficulty focusing attention or controlling behavior – but that is different from not being in touch with reality,” a key element of psychosis, he says.  I agree.
Chris Nobles, who became a ward of Pennsylvania at age 15, is the centerpiece of the article.  In three years of care, doctors treated his depression and bouts of uncontrollable anger with a steady diet of psychiatric drugs.
Now in his mid-twenties, Mr. Nobles lives on his own, works full-time, and refuses any medication, “not even Nyquil.”
Another foster-home alum, testifying in spring of 2013 before a Senate Finance Committee roundtable discussion on psychiatric drugs, cited a list of medications she was prescribed over the years: antipsychotics Abilify and Seroquel, three antidepressants, a drug for attention deficit disorder, and an anticonvulsant.  She was variously diagnosed with depression, attention deficit disorder, and bipolar disorder.
“How do you develop as a person and find out who you are when you have been given all these diagnoses?” she asks.
Their stories mirror that of a local 17-year-old on Concerta and Seroquel and a 13-year-old on Lithium, Risperdal, Cogentin, Zoloft, and Clonidine.  Each had diagnoses consistent with Dr. Crystal’s findings.  There are others.     
 Kids are not magically adults at age 18.  Chris Nobles altered his destiny.  Many do not.
A University of Chicago study on foster alumni in Illinois, Wisconsin, and Iowa found that by age 26, fewer than half, 47%, were employed; most of those who worked earned less than $12 an hour.  Many had been sporadically homeless.      
They are also the parents of the next generation of dependent children. 
 The Journal report highlights the groundswell of foster-care alumni sounding the alarm about how freely psychiatric drugs are doled out to kids.
It’s long past time. 
A February, 2014 Wall Street Journal article, “Drugged as Children, Foster Care Alumni Speak Out,” examines the upsurge in strong antipsychotic drugs prescribed for children in Medicaid and foster care in the past decade and a half.  It should be required reading for every parent, teacher, counselor, caseworker, and judge who has or may have contact with the child welfare system.
I have been a court-appointed attorney for indigent parents in the Chester County, Pennsylvania Juvenile Dependency Court for about a decade. 
“Dependency” is a legal term of art and encompasses truancy; aggression; ungovernability; parental neglect; and physical, sexual, or emotional abuse.
For me, the most disturbing thing about these most disturbing of cases is the widespread use of antipsychotic medication to treat behavioral problems in children.  Children, both in home and in foster care or other institutional settings, some as young as three and four, are routinely prescribed antipsychotic medication for a variety of disruptive behaviors, from hyperactivity and rebelliousness to mood swings and poor grades. 
From my observations, the majority of these kids are exhibiting normal childhood behaviors, albeit writ large, not because of mental illness, but because of the vacuum, and resultant absence of structure and discipline, caused by broken homes. 
In the Journal piece, David Crystal, a professor of health services research at Rutgers University, based on 2009 data from Medicaid and private insurers, estimates that 12% to 13% of kids in foster care take these medicines.  That compares with about 2% for children on Medicaid but not in foster care and about 1% for those with private insurance.
The largest diagnostic groups receiving the drugs in foster care in 2009 were those with disruptive-behavioral disorders and attention-deficit/hyperactive disorders.
“These diagnoses involve difficulty focusing attention or controlling behavior – but that is different from not being in touch with reality,” a key element of psychosis, he says.  I agree.
Chris Nobles, who became a ward of Pennsylvania at age 15, is the centerpiece of the article.  In three years of care, doctors treated his depression and bouts of uncontrollable anger with a steady diet of psychiatric drugs.
Now in his mid-twenties, Mr. Nobles lives on his own, works full-time, and refuses any medication, “not even Nyquil.”
Another foster-home alum, testifying in spring of 2013 before a Senate Finance Committee roundtable discussion on psychiatric drugs, cited a list of medications she was prescribed over the years: antipsychotics Abilify and Seroquel, three antidepressants, a drug for attention deficit disorder, and an anticonvulsant.  She was variously diagnosed with depression, attention deficit disorder, and bipolar disorder.
“How do you develop as a person and find out who you are when you have been given all these diagnoses?” she asks.
Their stories mirror that of a local 17-year-old on Concerta and Seroquel and a 13-year-old on Lithium, Risperdal, Cogentin, Zoloft, and Clonidine.  Each had diagnoses consistent with Dr. Crystal’s findings.  There are others.      
 Kids are not magically adults at age 18.  Chris Nobles altered his destiny.  Many do not.
A University of Chicago study on foster alumni in Illinois, Wisconsin, and Iowa found that by age 26, fewer than half, 47%, were employed; most of those who worked earned less than $12 an hour.  Many had been sporadically homeless.      
They are also the parents of the next generation of dependent children. 
 The Journal report highlights the groundswell of foster-care alumni sounding the alarm about how freely psychiatric drugs are doled out to kids.
It’s long past time. 



California Limits Psychotropics Among Foster Children
BY SAM P.K. COLLINS  OCT 9, 2015 11:15AM
California’s foster children and child welfare advocates scored a huge win this week when Gov. Jerry Brown (D) signed three pieces of legislation aimed at curbing use of psychotropic drugs in foster homes.
Under the new laws, public health nurses can access the medical records of more than 63,000 children and teenagers in foster care, many of whom are prescribed psychotropic drugs. With that information, they’ll determine who relies most on the medication and take steps to cut back their intake. Child welfare workers will also receive training and oversight tools to prevent abuse.
“When we take kids away from their parents, we become their parents, and we assume the highest obligation to ensure that those kids have the best chance to thrive in life,” Frank Mecca, executive director of the County Welfare Directors Association of California, told the San Jose Mercury News. “And these bills give us the tools to make sure that kids don’t just get pills but that they get high quality mental health treatment and that their well-being is closely monitored.”
Last year, a five-part San Jose Mercury News investigation found that nearly a quarter of California’s foster children took psychotropic medications, some of which the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) didn’t approve. At the juvenile courts’ becking, officials carried out these practices for a decade, making its rates of abuse in the state’s foster system more than triple the national average.
A point of contention for child welfare advocates was that these children suffered from trauma, not severe mental illnesses for which the psychotropic medication was intended. While foster care officials doled out the treatments to calm the children down, mood swings often followed. Long-term effects — including weight gain, lethargy, lack of focus, increased risk of suicide, and a shrinking brain — devastated children throughout the state foster care system.
These discoveries sparked efforts to hold foster homes and doctors more accountable. As the landmark law made its way through the California legislation, a coalition of high-level health care officials, attorneys, and lawmakers compiled a set of guidelines for doctors who prescribe medication to youth. Stipulations forbade the synchronous use of two or more drugs, required practitioners to offer non-drug therapies, and prioritized used of FDA-approved medication.
“I don’t think there’s one substantive thing that we can point to that has ensured that foster children in California today are only receiving psychotropic medications appropriately,” Bill Grimm, an attorney with the Oakland-based National Center for Youth Law, told the San Jose Mercury News last year.
As the foster child population grows, foster care systems across the country are facing similar issues, mainly due to the use so-called “second-generation” antipsychotics. These medications — which include aripiprazole, olanzapine, paliperidone, quetiapine fumarate, and risperidone — have been approved by the FDA. Even so, a report by the Inspector General for the Department of Health and Human Services cited quality-of-care concerns in 67 percent of the cases examined. Some of these incidents took place took place in South Carolina, where doctors gave psychotropic medications at a rate two to three times that of their counterparts, mainly through a cocktail of two to three tablets.
Some doctors have defended these practices, saying they don’t have other options to “contain” the behaviors that get youngsters shipped from foster home to foster home. But lawmakers across the United States aren’t buying that explanation.
Last year, the federal government issued a call to all states to reduce the use of psychotropic medication in foster care, with President Barack Obama including moneyin his 2015 and 2016 budget proposals to assist in those efforts.
Some states have also taken concrete steps to reduce prescription of mind-altering drugs to children. For example, Washington, Wyoming, New Jersey, and Illinois require that children prescribed psychotropics receive second opinions. Child welfare workers, foster parents, and residential providers in Texas and Connecticut are trained on psychotropics’ effects and side effects. They also receive guidance about what questions they should ask doctors and when to seek non-drug therapies.
“What the experts tell us is… not enough resources are really directed at taking care of these kids and giving them the therapies and the intensive treatment that they need — not drugs,” CBS News Correspondent Werner said earlier this year. “That’s a lot of time, that’s a lot of people to do that — therapists and counselors and doctors — and that of course all costs money.”
The legislation signed by Gov. Brown, in essence, takes up where previous laws left off, asking all sectors dealing with foster children to work more closely in preventing the over-prescription of medication. While the state’s latest move has gone the furthest in limiting the use of psychotropics, critics say the legislative processweakened some aspects of the law that would have held practitioners more accountable. For example, lobbying groups representing physicians and group homes saw to it that a part of the legislation requiring doctors to justify their use of medication before judges was removed.






  
It's Not All Right to be a Foster Kid....no matter what they tell you: Tweet the books contents


Paperback 94 pages
http://www.amazon.com/Right-Foster-Kid-no-matter-what

From the Author

I spent my childhood, from age seven through seventeen, in foster care.  Over the course of those ten years, many decent, well-meaning, and concerned people told me, "It's okay to be foster kid."
In saying that, those very good people meant to encourage me, and I appreciated their kindness then, and all these many decades later, I still appreciate their good intentions. But as I was tossed around the foster care system, it began to dawn on me that they were wrong.  It was not all right to be a foster kid.
During my time in the system, I was bounced every eighteen months from three foster homes to an orphanage to a boy's school and to a group home before I left on my own accord at age seventeen.
In the course of my stay in foster care, I was severely beaten in two homes by my "care givers" and separated from my four siblings who were also in care, sometimes only blocks away from where I was living.
I left the system rather than to wait to age out, although the effects of leaving the system without any family, means, or safety net of any kind, were the same as if I had aged out. I lived in poverty for the first part of my life, dropped out of high school, and had continuous problems with the law.
 Today, almost nothing about foster care has changed.  Exactly what happened to me is happening to some other child, somewhere in America, right now.  The system, corrupt, bloated, and inefficient, goes on, unchanging and secretive.
Something has gone wrong in a system that was originally a compassionate social policy built to improve lives but is now a definitive cause in ruining lives.  Due to gross negligence, mismanagement, apathy, and greed, mostly what the foster care system builds are dangerous consequences. Truly, foster care has become our epic national disgrace and a nightmare for those of us who have lived through it.
Yet there is a suspicion among some Americans that foster care costs too much, undermines the work ethic, and is at odds with a satisfying life.  Others see foster care as a part of the welfare system, as legal plunder of the public treasuries.
 None of that is true; in fact, all that sort of thinking does is to blame the victims.  There is not a single child in the system who wants to be there or asked to be there.  Foster kids are in foster care because they had nowhere else to go.  It's that simple.  And believe me, if those kids could get out of the system and be reunited with their parents and lead normal, healthy lives, they would. And if foster care is a sort of legal plunder of the public treasuries, it's not the kids in the system who are doing the plundering.
 We need to end this needless suffering.  We need to end it because it is morally and ethically wrong and because the generations to come will not judge us on the might of our armed forces or our technological advancements or on our fabulous wealth.
 Rather, they will judge us, I am certain, on our compassion for those who are friendless, on our decency to those who have nothing and on our efforts, successful or not, to make our nation and our world a better place.  And if we cannot accomplish those things in the short time allotted to us, then let them say of us "at least they tried."
You can change the tragedy of foster care and here's how to do it.  We have created this book so that almost all of it can be tweeted out by you to the world.  You have the power to improve the lives of those in our society who are least able to defend themselves.  All you need is the will to do it.
 If the American people, as good, decent and generous as they are, knew what was going on in foster care, in their name and with their money, they would stop it.  But, generally speaking, although the public has a vague notion that foster care is a mess, they don't have the complete picture. They are not aware of the human, economic and social cost that the mismanagement of the foster care system puts on our nation.
By tweeting the facts laid out in this work, you can help to change all of that.  You can make a difference.  You can change things for the better.
We can always change the future for a foster kid; to make it better ...you have the power to do that. Speak up (or tweet out) because it's your country.  Don't depend on the "The other guy" to speak up for these kids, because you are the other guy.
We cannot build a future for foster children, but we can build foster children for the future and the time to start that change is today.


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