Research has shown that youth in state care are at high risk for severe emotional and behavioral disturbances. A substantial number of these children and adolescents are receiving psychotropic medications as part of their overall care plan.
For psychiatrically impaired children and adolescents from intact families, parents are responsible for providing consent for treatment and longitudinal oversight of their child’s care. As the legal guardian for approximately 16,000 youth in state custody, the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) is responsible for providing consent for psychiatric treatment for their wards and longitudinal oversight of their wards’ care.
The provision of consent and oversight of treatment for youth in state custody presents a daunting challenge for DCFS:
- Children in state care often experience frequent turnovers in caregivers and placement changes, making longitudinal oversight of a youth’s care more difficult.
- DCFS does not have the medical knowledge base to provide truly informed consent for the use of psychotropic medications in youth in their care.
- To complicate matters further, because children and adolescents in state care are a vulnerable population, DCFS is closely scrutinized by the press and multiple private, state and federal agencies.
In addition to reviewing medication requests, the objectives of the Clinical Services in Psychopharmcology are to:
- Provide expert comprehensive consultation on particularly difficult and/or complex cases through the resources at the Institute for Juvenile Research and the Department of Psychiatry;
- Notify the DCFS’ Office of the Guardian and Advocacy when local and/or provider patterns warrant further review and possible remediation;
- Disseminate information on new pharmaceutical developments and alerts to prescribing physicians who serve DCFS wards;
- Draft materials and review and comment on DCFS-developed caseworker best practice guidelines, Administrative Rules and Procedures which govern management of psychotropic drugs and develop training materials, curricula and arrange or conduct training for DCFS-identified staff in protocols for psychotropic medications management.