21 May 2015

The Use of Psychotropic Medications in Foster Children

There's one thing I'v been pondering quite a bit over the last few days, and that's the use of behavior altering medications in children in foster care.  These children have all been through some sort of trauma, and sometimes that leads to troublesome (for adults) behavior.  I know quite a few of the foster children I've done respite for are on some sort of medication for ADHD.   Actually 5 out of 10 of the boys we've had are now on meds.  One little boy in particular has been on my mind.  He was almost sedated with his medications.  A little boy should be running around and having fun - that's what little boys do.  I never saw him before meds, but his lack of energy worried me.  Please don't mistake me, I'm not criticizing foster parents who have children on meds.   I think of long term foster parents as guardian angels sent to protect and nurture these children. The vast majority of foster parents that I've met love the children like their own flesh and blood.   However, I think we should all carefully consider the decision to put children on meds.

  I'm just a humble veterinarian so I don't have any training on psychotropic meds in children, but I do know a little about the use of meds in dogs.   I will never send home behavior-altering medications in any pet without first discussing what training needs to be accomplished, and referral to a qualified trainer.  There's no alternative to actually correcting behavior.   Additionally, I won't keep a pet on meds long term without bloodwork to monitor organ function.   Every single medication we give to pets or people has a consequence, has an effect on organs, has an effect on the brain... There is nothing that is 100% safe.  

    So what about these medicines in children?

  • Do we know what effects they have on their brain? organs?
  • Are they more likely to use drugs in the future?
  • Are we PREVENTING them from LEARNING good behavior and instead teaching them to rely on medications?  
  • What about future effects?  Children are developing their thought processes.  Their brain is growing and changing.  Are we hurting their future by using these medications?  
I did a brief search through scholarly articles and research papers, and found only that "more research is needed" to determine long term effects.

For children that are in care who seem a little...energetic.   Wouldn't it be better to send them to play tag outside when they are rambunctious?   If they are in class, maybe some jumping jacks and stretching as a class would help children who are restless sitting there.  It would also help with the obesity epidemic... Little boys aren't supposed to be still.  They should be running, playing, jumping, and saying "HEY!  Look what I can do!"   Also maybe we should cut back on the processed foods and sugars before adding medications.  

Honestly, I don't know what the answer is...but I hate seeing children on medication.   I hope that we can all carefully consider the use of behavior modifying medications, and I hope we can find ways to manage behavior safely with minimal use of medications.

Peace and Love, y'all

20 May 2015

Fostering, adopt them, well behaved foster children

We jumped back into fostering this past weekend.  We got the call on Friday night.  "Can you take 3 boys for the weekend?" The foster mom explained that her usual respite provider canceled at the last moment.  When a foster family needs a break, respite providers provide this break.  The boys were aged 5, 11, and 16.  The younger 2 were brothers.  After Chase and I talked about it, we decided we could provide a place for these boys.

They arrived at our house about 1 hour after I got off from work.  They carried in their clothing for the weekend stay in plastic shopping bags.  Their foster mom explained their medicines and care.  Their foster dad carried in a TV for the oldest's xbox.  I showed them into our home and gave the children a tour.  The two littlest happily claimed the yellow bedroom, and the oldest the blue room.  We sat with the boys and chatted for a while, and started a movie.   The youngest quickly fell asleep on our couch.  Both of the older boys offered to carry him to his bed, but we gently woke him up.  The little one's brother walked him down the hall and tucked him to bed.  The middle one went to bed too.  The oldest and Chase stayed up enjoying video games while Mary and I went to bed as well.

The next morning, the boys stayed with Chase while I went to work.  Mary was fussy so Chase didn't get to spend much quality time with them.  When I got home, I took over caring for Mary.  We got out the legos and played with the youngest.   He loved legos! We made a stable for the horses, and helped the police drive their boats.  I put on a movie while I went to feed Mary.  When I got done, we all ate grilled cheese sandwiches and grapes.  Then we went on a walk.  I let the middle boy walk Ruby, and the smallest got to walk Gary.  I pushed the stroller.  Gary was a perfect companion for the little guy.  Gary doesn't pull or bark anymore.  He just totters along slowly.  Chase and the oldest played video games together.  Chase has a Civil War game so I hope the oldest learned the history of some Civil War battles too!

When we got home, Chase gave cooking lessons to the 2 oldest while I played Uno with the youngest.  Over dinner we asked the boys what they liked.  The middle one loved all sports except for basketball.  The two youngest both loved swimming, and hoped to do some this summer.  We learned the oldest has his drivers license and wanted to purchase a car.  He wanted to join the navy after school, because it's a family tradition.  He was sad he couldn't leave the state to visit family.   All 3 children were hoping to be able to return to their mothers this summer. 

 Reunification is the goal of fostering.    Almost all foster children dream of reuniting with their families.  It doesn't matter how messed up the biological family seems, children want their family.  We are frequently asked "Don't you want to adopt them?" with regards to the foster children.  And the answer is...NO  we want their biological families to get the support and help they need to turn things around.  We want the biological families to provide loving and supportive homes for their children.   That is what is best for the children.  Unfortunately, that doesn't always happen.  Of course, we would adopt a long term foster in that case, and love them as much as we love MM.  BUT that is not what we hope and pray for.

 As usual, we instantly loved these children.  I've never met such a polite teenager.  Even though the 2 other boys weren't related to him, it was obvious he protected and cared for them.  The 2 brothers were just so sweet.  When their foster parents came to pick them up, we told them they are welcome to call us as respite providers any time.  Oftentimes when I tell others how well behaved/sweet/kind/helpful/not bad/anything good the foster children are, I'm immediately asked "Isn't that unusual to get a well behaved foster child?"   This question drives me bonkers, but provides an excellent opportunity to explain the truth.  The truth is...the children are JUST CHILDREN.  They have been through some awful things, but they are just children.  Foster children DID NOTHING to become foster children.  It's not their fault.  They didn't deserve this.  The poor children don't need a stigma - they face enough challenges already.  Foster children need love, acceptance, stability, and fun just like a non-foster child.  It breaks my heart that there is a misconception that foster children are innately poorly behaved. 

If anyone stumbles across this blog and is curious about fostering.  Drop me a line with questions.

Peace and Love, y'all

Chase and I are still waiting for "the call" that we can say yes to.  We aren't sure if we are ready for a long term foster, but we're ready to try.  Right now we are more comfortable with sibling groups or a boy since Chase is a stay-at-home-daddy.  We were called yesterday about a teenage girl, but we had to say no.   Saying no is more difficult than saying yes. 

10 May 2015

Life Continues

My maternity leave officially ended on April 7th as I headed back to work. I've been so busy!  Life is full of work and baby, work and baby, work and baby.   But I love it.  I love working, and I love being a mom.  I just hope I can maintain a balance!

Here' are some scrapbook layouts with Jen Wright's kits :)