CANADA: Finding Normal
From The National, May 15, 2006
Children rely on the adults in their lives for care and support.
When that support sometimes breaks down, other grownups are entrusted with special responsibilities —organizations like the Children's Aid Society and people like doctors, are brought in to make things better.
This is a story about a boy who was heavily medicated over a period of time. He'd been diagnosed with several psychiatric conditions, and his medications were steadily increased after reports of more and more difficult behaviour.
That's when the boy's grandparents step in, concerned about their grandson and the effects the medications were having on him.
Now out of the group home, the boy is off all of the drugs he was prescribed there.
The boy in this story is referred to as "J" throughout in order to protect his identity.
"How would you describe yourself to someone who doesn't know you?" J is asked.
"Nice. Not very calm at times. Very good at biking. Not too good at skate boarding but still like to sit on it and zip down hills!"
As long as he's moving, the boy we call J is free, free from his memories.
"I didn't really think about much. I was always tired — my arms and stuff. I couldn't get out of bed often," he says.
Two years on, J is transformed. A relief to his grandparents.
"He just loves to laugh … he's just a completely different kid from, from those times before," his grandfather says.
The 15 months he spent as a ward of the Durham Children's Aid Society on sometimes, crippling doses of medication …
"I couldn't stand up I hardly could climb the stairs I pretty much had to crawl the stairs," J says.
"It was like the life in his body was being drained out of him," J's grandmother says.
In fact, the medications stunted his growth.
USA - Hearing: Drugging of Foster Children
A hearing held by The House Ways and Means Committee, May 8, focused on the use of psychotropic drugs for children in foster care.
A riveting testimony was delivered by Misty Stenslie, Deputy Director, Foster Care Alumni of America (below). She represents one of 12 million adults in this country who grew up in foster care, the government served as my parents. She spent 12 years in approximately 30 placements.
"My time in care resulted in a long list of diagnoses, including Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Oppositional Defiant Disorder, Depression, and a sleep disorder. Because of the instability in my living situation, it seemed that the only option the professionals in my life were able to take for treating all of the diagnosed conditions was prescribing medication. Over the years I was on more medications than I can count--usually without my knowing what the meds were for, how I should expect to feel, side effects to watch out for, or any plan for follow up."