It is stories like Janessa’s that have inspired us to launch the Congressional Caucus on Foster Youth. Janessa and the nearly 424,000 foster youth in our nation’s system are unique individuals with distinct gifts, goals and concerns. With strong support, these children can grow to be strong, contributing citizens. The urgency is clear to us. In just the past few years, 29,500 foster children have left America’s foster care system never having known the love of a family. Due to the lack of the foundation, so many of those who have “aged out” of the system are at higher risk for unemployment, poor educational outcomes, health issues, early parenthood, long-term dependency on public assistance, increased rates of incarceration and homelessness.
As a caucus we have determined our first topic of concern is the possible over-prescription of psychotropic drugs among foster children. A recent study by the Government Accountability Office reported that children in foster care are prescribed these drugs at rates between 2.7 to 4.5 times higher than other children receiving Medicaid. One of our co-chairpersons saw firsthand the effects of psychotropic drugs while practicing child psychiatry and another saw this as a serious issue while being a foster mother herself. Often these drugs are part of necessary therapies to treat the traumatic life experiences. However, without proper models for oversight, overmedication can lead to serious health risks in the affected children. Government entities such as Health and Human Services’ Administration for Children and Families and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services have also taken up the cause to ensure the safe and effective use of psychotropic medications among foster youth. We urge these groups to continue to work together on this issue, and we publicly pledge our dedication to ensuring the evidence shows steps in the right direction.
By taking a stand on this issue, and others in the future, we are committing to do everything in our power to protect and promote the welfare of America’s foster youth. It is our desire to see that each and every child within the foster care system has no obstacle to a stable family. These children are an integral part of shaping and leading our nation.
But we need your help. Please take some time to learn how you can get involved and make a difference in the lives of foster care children. With your help, we will be able to help make sure that, like Janessa, every American foster child’s story has a happy ending.
Rep. Bachmann (R-Minn.), Rep. Bass (D-Calif.), Rep. Marino (R-Pa.) and Rep. McDermott (D-Wash.) are co-chairs of the Congressional Caucus on Foster Youth.