Psychotropic Medication in Foster Care 6/19

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Madera County Social Services Training Room

700 E. Yosemite Ave.

Madera, CA

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In 2014 the San Jose Mercury News found that from 2004 to 2014, nearly 1 out of 4 adolescents in the California foster care system received psychotropic medications—3.5 times the rate for all adolescents nationwide. Of children and youth in care who were prescribed psychotropic medications, 60% received the strongest class—antipsychotics. What is particularly concerning is the prescription of multiple medications (i.e., polypharmacy). Research repeatedly finds that children and youth in the foster care system are diagnosed with mental health disorders more often than children not in foster care and are therefore more likely to be prescribed psychotropic medications (Longhofer, Floersch, & Okpych, 2011; Sheldon, Berwick, & Hyde, 2011). The most common diagnoses among children and youth in foster care are conduct disorder/oppositional defiant disorder, depression, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, and posttraumatic stress disorder. Commonly prescribed medications for children and youth in foster care include antipsychotics to treat schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and autism with irritability; stimulants to treat symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder; antidepressants to treat major depression and obsessive compulsive disorder; and mood stabilizers for aggressive behavior and unspecified emotional problems. In response to this data, California has taken steps to build upon previous legislation and expand and develop new guidelines that continue to promote the basic principles of safety, permanency, and wellbeing, with the added goal of reducing short- and long-term harm caused by inappropriate prescriptions and use of psychotropic medications. Senate Bill 238, signed into law by Governor Brown on October 6th of 2015 stipulates that certain professionals and others who work with children and youth in foster care should be provided training about important topics related to the administration of psychotropic medication to those children and youth. Specifically, training about psychotropic medication and trauma as related to children and youth in foster care is to be provided to group home administrators, foster parents, child welfare social workers, probation officers, dependency court judges and attorneys, court appointed counsel and special advocates along with information about behavioral health and substance use.

The intended audience for the Psychotropic Medication in Foster Care classroom training is line staff from child welfare, juvenile justice, and children's behavioral health agencies throughout California, as well as public health nurses, caregivers, youth, and community partners who have an interest in learning about psychotropic medication and how it can be used to serve the mental health needs of children and youth in the child welfare system. The training objectives will address, knowledge, values and assist the trainee with the development of new skills related to the use of psychotropic medications in foster care. At the end of the training, trainees will be able to;

  • Name at least three key points in the laws and regulations that govern administration of psychotropic medications to children and youth in foster care in California.

  • Name at least one of the basic principles of trauma-informed care as they relate to use of psychotropic medication in foster care.

  • Name at least two common behavioral health diagnoses and the related treatment options for children, youth, and young adults in foster care.

  • Describe what do to if side effects are noticed or reported by a child, youth, or young adult in foster care who is taking prescribed psychotropic medication.

  • Locate and utilize the correct state required forms (JV-217 through JV-224) when a medical provider is starting or continuing a psychotropic medication for a child or youth in foster care.

  • Describe the notification processes used in requesting and monitoring administration of psychotropic medications.

Using sample plans, trainees will be able to select and utilize the appropriate tool(s) provided in the CA Guidelines for the Use of Psychotropic Medication with Children and Youth in Foster Care to evaluate or apply basic treatment plans regarding psychotropic medication decisions.

  1. Prescribing Standards by Age Group,

  2. Parameters for Use of Psychotropic Medication for Children and Adolescents,

  3. Challenges in Diagnosis and Prescribing Psychotropic Medication, and

  4. Algorithm/Decision Tree for Prescribing Psychotropic Medication.

Using a vignette, trainees will be able to identify:

  1. The relevant parties to be included in planning and documentation,

  2. Those parties’ rights and obligations, and

  3. The timeline for court requests, decisions, and notifications.

Trainees will value building on child and family resilience and strengths in both formal and informal services used to ameliorate the negative effects of:

  1. abuse and/or neglect;

  2. emotional, cognitive, and/or behavioral dysregulations; and

  3. potential mental illness.

Trainees will value ensuring that the voices of children, youth, and young adults are incorporated into treatment plans and medication decisions.

Trainees will value working with a multi-disciplinary team to understand and manage the use of psychotropic medication by children, youth, and young adults in foster care.

This course meets the qualifications for 6 hours of continuing education credits for LCSWs as required by the California Board of Behavioral Sciences, provided by an accredited postsecondary institution. No charge for training. PLEASE NOTE: In order to receive credit for completion of this training and to receive CEUs, you must arrive on time and attend the entire session. You must provide your license number when registering to earn CEU credits. No exceptions.

For more information please contact your Regional Training Coordinator: Cindy Friesen at 559 228 4076 or OR, Mayko Vang at (209) 261-5401 or

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Madera County Social Services Training Room

700 E. Yosemite Ave.

Madera, CA

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