Foster children in Missouri have been dangerously over-medicated with antipsychotic drugs — intended to treat conditions like bipolar disorder and schizophrenia — to manage behavioral disorders like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, according to a new civil rights lawsuit, which instead effectively puts them in “a chemical straightjacket.”

“The sedative properties of the drugs are employed to sedate and control the difficult behaviors of children,” says attorney Bill Grimm of the National Center for Youth Law, which — together with the Saint Louis University School of Law Legal Clinic and the legal advocacy group Children’s Rights — brought the lawsuit June 12.

“Whenever a state takes a child into custody, there are certain obligation that arise to that child from the state,” such as the government’s duty to protect children’s health and safety, the attorney asserts.

Missouri’s Children’s Division, “has failed to meet its critical obligations and presently subjects [foster children represented] to physical and psychological harm and the unreasonable risk of such harm in violation of their federal constitutional and statutory rights,” the class-action suit contends.

Grimm laments the issue compounding due to flimsy recordkeeping, adding, according to Reason, “The caregivers don’t know in some instances what the medications are, what conditions they’re supposed to address for the child, what benefits they are supposed to provide to the child … They are operating in the dark.”


Over-medicating could induce children into being pliable and compliant, but the effects of providing youth with medicine intended to treat serious conditions — for behaviors not deemed as grave — can have deleterious effects on their health.

Foster children arriving in custodial care for the first time have been documented bringing prescriptions in paper bags or wrapped in tissue paper, according to the suit, minus crucial information on dosages and side effects — leaving foster parents in the dark about how to properly medicate children.

Reason elaborates, “One child was hospitalized for six days after she received the wrong dose of several psychotropic medications. Another was prescribed seven different psychotropic drugs at once, including three antipsychotics; as a result, the suit says, he developed tremors and required institutionalization.”

Missouri at least theoretically attempted to bring the problem of mis- and over-prescribing psychotropic medications to foster kids under control. Beginning in 2013, a “second opinion” program — in which a board-certified child psychologist commenced review of ten different children’s prescriptions to determine popular use — effectively ceased three years in, when “obtaining complete records from prescribers and health care providers was a difficult task and the review did not render sufficient or meaningful data.”

A study by the Government Accountability Office in 2012 found nearly one-fifth of foster children, 18 percent, were prescribed psychotropic medications — with those in group homes or residential treatment receiving those drugs at higher rates than their counterparts in individual homes or formal kin care situations — a figure which elucidated the urgency to determine efficacy.

Multiple states then enacted controls to stem the free flow of potentially dangerous medications to foster youth, Reason continues, “Washington established a requirement that any prescription of psychotropic drugs should receive a second opinion from a child psychiatrist. Florida requires informed consent from the kids’ legal guardians before the drugs can be administered. Texas has implemented a training program for child welfare workers and foster parents on alternatives to medication.”

Last year, according to the court filing, Missouri’s Department of Social Services acknowledged “many foster care children are prescribed multiple psychotropic medications without clear evidence of benefit and with inadequate safety data. The use of multiple medications (psychotropic or otherwise) creates the potential for serious drug interactions.”

Parties to the lawsuit allege foster children have been deprived of civil rights through the prescription of psychotropic drugs as a method of behavioral control — rather than for psychiatric and psychological needs.

Due to lack of oversight and mismanagement, foster children continue to face unnecessary and harmful effects of powerful medications — often meant for treating conditions for which many foster children have not been properly diagnosed.

Plaintiffs seek an overhaul of the current poorly-managed system, including improvements to oversight, sufficient maintenance and tracking of children’s medical records, revamped second opinion procedures, and — most imperatively for health and safety — a halt in prescriptions of heavy psychotropics for behavior control.

Medicating children into oblivion because Missouri or any other state finds a program unmanageable eviscerates their human rights and — considering protection of children comprises the fundamental purpose — makes a mockery of the foster program.

If the State remains unprepared to care for children taken from birth parents and placed in foster care, the premise of removal for safety is farcical at best.

However, prescribing weighty and unnecessary medications to foster kids for off-label use certainly accomplishes one goal — indefensibly astronomical profits flow unabated into the pharmaceutical industry’s apparently bottomless pockets.

Claire Bernish began writing as an independent, investigative journalist in 2015, with works published and republished around the world. Not one to hold back, Claire’s particular areas of interest include U.S. foreign policy, analysis of international affairs, and everything pertaining to transparency and thwarting censorship. To keep up with the latest uncensored news, follow her on Facebook or Twitter: @Subversive_Pen.
  • Damiana

    What’s even worse is the way foster children are routinely (and openly) used as guinea pigs in medical research. Just offer the “parents” a couple hundred bucks for consent and foster parents became FAR more likely to cash in on it than parents who are securely bonded with their own crotch-spawn. I’m sure it would boggle the mind and turn the stomach to find out how many foster kids are being forced to take drugs “just to see what happens to them.”

    • Guy

      If the State and Foster Parents keep the kid *doped to the gills* how much easer no doubt, would it be to manage the two legged cash cows. Feed em, send em to school and put em to bed, with very little effort and hardly a mess to clean up, as about equal to as much work needed, and expected, necessary to cash the monthly check.

  • Lawrence Pearson

    Knowing families that have been torn apart by Missouri’s child services . I watched a former child services worker who dated an ex of a friend . Call and red line her and her family . The kids were removed at gun point the mom instantly had a seizure .The courts completely destroyed this mom . But just before the last trial , The mom asked the judge if the ex and his new family could do a hair test for drug usage . When the judge got the results he removed any chance of any of the kids natural family . Being with them til they were adults . The fake red line call made by the former employee . Stayed acceptable against the mom . Even when the test results showed meth use in her and that ex see took up with . The kids were gone . Almost ten years later I saw the oldest daughter graduate in Raytown , I took the mom to watch . We saw the dad watching also . The youngest girl has real problems now and probably for all times . The oldest boy always knew his real name so he looked up the grandma the day he was 18 . And stays in touch always . These were good kids . I personally took them to school and picked them up . I took the oldest girl to after school reading programs . I got them a computer with spelling and math games and they got good at winning an education . Then they were gone split up . The mothers mental health has deteriorated . So much so she doesn’t want the kids to see her physical and mental change . She is embarrassed beyond repair

    • Jamie Hall

      Sadly, this is the default mentality of the state; if you can’t control a family with absolutely no justification whatsoever, then just destroy it and move on to the next case.

  • Gordon Klock

    Of course the last persons the adults will ever listen to, are the kids themselves, in regard to what medication they normally take, I recall several moments in my life, when I saw this sort of thing, as the ‘grown ups’ choose to disregard, the kids arguements about what they know, to be the proper dosage, of non-“abusable” medications, they have been taking daily, for over a year or so, (with what should have been foreseeable), bad results…
    I’ve personally never heard of a case were CPS got involved, that resulted in any good coming from it. They only seem to attack semi- happy families, & they always hypocritically “drag their feet” when evidence of real, & serious abuse occurs…(in fact, it often strangely seems, like they are secretly protecting the abusers, as they tear apart the happier families)…..


    Sure! Any state and federal government bought and paid for by Big Pharm and law enforcement will have millions of pills even for infants. Likewise a caged top with pad-locks for their cribs.

  • Lisa Thomas

    how can i contact these attorneys to expose what is happening in Maine’s foster system?