Environment & Health

Drugs in the System

There are half a million foster kids in the U.S. and they're prescribed antipsychotics nine times more often than their counterparts. Does this unregulated system financially reward overmedication?
Psychotropic drugs | Credit: NEED TO KNOW

Nearly one in every 10 American children is diagnosed with a mental health disorder. Often the treatment prescribed is medication, and often the medication is heavy-duty — so-called antipsychotic drugs.

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In this report, you’ll see that foster care children are prescribed drugs at a rate much greater than that of other kids. Concern over their well-being — not to mention the amount it costs to treat them — has prompted the Government Accountability Office to investigate potentially abusive prescribing practices in America’s state foster care systems. The GAO findings are expected to come out later this year.

Need to Know correspondent Shoshana Guy went to Texas to investigate overuse of psychotropic drugs in foster children, as well as that state’s efforts at reform.

Shoshana Guy, along with Sarah Fitzpatrick and Mar Cabra, produced the segment.

Research support was provided by The Investigative Fund at The Nation Institute, as well as the New York Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences and the Stabile Center for Investigative Reporting.

About the reporters

Sarah Fitzpatrick

Sarah Fitzpatrick

Sarah Fitzpatrick is a multimedia journalist based in New York City.

Mar Cabra

Mar Cabra

Mar Cabra is the head of the Data & Research Unit of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.