Overuse of Psychiatric Medication in the Juvenile Legal & Child Welfare Systems

A webinar from April 10, 2023 with Dr. Martin Irwin, MD, Clinical Professor at the NYU School of Medicine, Department of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry.

Multiple studies have concluded that children in the juvenile legal system or foster care, many of whom are victims of abuse and trauma, are prescribed psychiatric medication at a rate significantly higher than other populations of children. Much of the time, the medications are used to control behavior and anger. Many of the medications used in this population of already vulnerable children are prescribed off-label, with little proven benefit but significant risk.

Compounding the problem, biological parents or legal guardians are frequently pressured to sign consent forms without having ever spoken to the psychiatric provider. The consent forms parents or guardians are asked to sign do not contain sufficient information about benefits, risks, or alternatives to allow them to make a truly informed decision about the psychiatric care of their children. When parents refuse to consent, even if their objection is reasonable, the medications are often administered over their objections.

Youth defenders, social workers, mitigation experts, child advocates, attorneys representing parents and children, family court judges, state child welfare and juvenile legal leaders, social workers, caseworkers, educators, and mental health therapists can play a vital role in reducing the overuse of medication.

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Tags: Competence, Disabilities, Experts, Harms of Incarceration, Health & Mental Health, Trauma