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Individualized Engagement is Key to Reducing Medicating Children in Foster Care

06-20-2016 09:50 AM CET | Health & Medicine

Press release from: Hillsides

(PASADENA, CA) Medication should never be used to manage a child but rather to assist with a clearly diagnosed psychiatric disorder, according to Hillsides Chief Executive Officer Joseph M. Costa. “More often than not, what helps reduce the utilization of medication is a greater level of individualized engagement, which includes educating the child and the family on the specific effects of any medication. Education, behavioral supports, and constant monitoring of a child’s reaction to any medication is the only acceptable treatment strategy for children who may benefit from psychotropic medication because of some clearly defined psychiatric diagnosis and traumas they have experienced.”

Costa was speaking in response to an article in Pasadena Star-News that drew attention to the use of psychotropic medication for children in the foster care system based on a study published by the Bay Area News Group. The statistics in the study showed that adolescent children in foster care in California are 3.5 times more likely to be on psychotropic medication than all adolescents in the U.S.

Costa noted that the utilization of these medications is high, and some may assume that this is unnecessary. “My assessment of these statistics is that there are a disproportionate number of children in the foster care system, who, because of the level of trauma they have experienced, may for at least a period of time, benefit from some psychotropic medication as they address their most pressing treatment issues,” he said.

Costa continued that it is not unusual for Hillsides to receive referrals of children who have been in a psychiatric hospital. These children’s level of trauma has been so severe that psychiatric services were required. Typically the children arrive at Hillsides with some psychotropic medications prescribed. “Once here, our consulting psychiatrists review the medication they are on and closely monitor the child to determine if medications should be reduced for a child’s optimal functioning,” he said.

“I remember one pre-adolescent boy who suffered from debilitating side effects from anxiety medication,” he continued. “His dosage was lowered, and staff worked closely with our nursing personnel to monitor his behavior and provide him with extra support as he adjusted to the new dosage. Today, his anxiety is under control and he is back with his family. He is still benefitting from some medication, but now is much better prepared to live a normal and full life.”

Hillsides, as a provider within the child welfare system, is dedicated to partnering with children and families to offer the highest quality care possible,” continued Costa. “For those we serve, one concrete benefit of a life less dependent, if not completely free, of psychotropic medication is a greater level of functioning and a sense of well-being.”

Costa noted that the courts take the use of any medication very seriously and, together with providers like Hillsides, do everything possible to reduce–if not eliminate–the need for any prescribed medication. Yet, he stated that the foster care system continues to be plagued by a great disparity in care resulting in some children and youth unnecessarily using medications.

“Articles such as the one in the Pasadena Star-News help to address this disparity and support reforms that have been introduced at the Department of Children and Family Services and, in many instances, initiated by the courts. According to a follow-up article in the Star-News, this article has also spurred California legislators to examine this issue,” he said.

Hillsides, founded in 1913, is a premier provider of child welfare services serving more than 6,200 children, youth, and families throughout Los Angeles County, including Echo Park, Baldwin Park, and the San Gabriel Valley. For more information, please visit

This press release was originally published in a slightly different version on Hillsides blog on August 27, 2014.

CONTACT: Alison Bell
Office: (323) 543-2800 ext. 226
Cell: (626) 390-1640

Hillsides is a premier provider dedicated to improving the overall well-being and functioning of vulnerable children, youth, and their families. Our vision is to create lasting change in the lives of at-risk children and youth we serve. We provide high quality care, advocacy, and innovative services that promote safe, permanent environments where young people can thrive.

Hillsides has four main programs:
Family Resource Centers, which offer numerous community based programs and services that provide parenting classes, mental health support and additional crucial resources for vulnerable children and families throughout Los Angeles County.
Residential Treatment Services, which provide a safe and stable environment where children and youths, who cannot live at home, suffered trauma, or have severe emotional or behavioral challenges, can thrive.
Education Center, a therapeutic residential and day school that offers individualized education for students with social-emotional, learning and/or behavioral challenges for children in kindergarten through 12th grade.
Youth Moving On, which provides former foster youth affordable quality housing and numerous support services to help them become responsible, self-sufficient adults.

940 Avenue 64
Pasadena, CA 91105
Company Contact/Press Contact:
Alison Bell
323-543-2800 ext 226
815 Colorado Blvd, Suite 300
Los Angeles, CA 90041

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