On The Frontlines

From CR’s Executive Director

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Sometimes, when we’re in the midst of tough legal campaigns, it’s nice to know we’re not alone–that people from all walks of life recognize the inherent need to keep America’s foster children safe from abuse and neglect.

We felt this at our Seventh Annual Benefit.

There was palpable energy in the room–a renewed vigor from our longtime supporters, and an instant alliance with newcomers. Every one of the 350 in attendance left the Plaza Hotel’s ballroom knowing that change is needed, change is possible, and we all are part of the solution.

The event’s success was in part due to an impressive lineup–Children’s Rights Board Member Darryl “DMC” McDaniels, actor and TV personality Nick Cannon as Co-Chair, and modern-day renaissance man Kasseem ‘Swizz Beatz’ Dean, who received our 2012 Children’s Rights Champion Award.

We are supremely grateful for the excitement this star-studded celebration brought to our cause. We thank everyone who made the evening what it was, including our benefactors, Rebecca and Jordan Seaman.

The true star, however, was Emalee, a young woman from Texas. She described the neglect of her drug-using, drug-dealing mom–but said the real mistreatment began after she entered foster care, when she experienced her first hunger pain. Having her head put through a wall. Sexual abuse. And then, when she started getting angry, being put on a host of psychotropic medications to keep her in line. After living through every horror that one can in foster care, she aged out without the basic skills to survive.

But survive she has, through her quick wit and determination to give her three children the support and guidance she never had. She brought the house down, and reminded me of why it was so critical that Children’s Rights filed a lawsuit in Texas to demand radical changes to its foster care system.

Emalee is far from the only one who felt she was overprescribed powerful medications. In “Psychotropic Drugs and Foster Care,” you will hear former foster youth describe an inability to stay awake in school and feeling like zombies. While some youth definitely benefit from carefully administered psychotropics, foster children are prescribed the pills at an alarming rate–and often without proper oversight or the mental health treatment that traumatized children need.

This is especially true in Massachusetts, where there is too little oversight of the administration of these medications to foster kids. An expert report revealed that children are “being prescribed medications that were not warranted.” One child was just 6 when he was hospitalized for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). He was administered Clonidine, Depakote, Concerta, Zoloft, Celexa, Trazadone, Focalin, Geodon, Abilify, Risperdal and Adderall. Not one of these medications is approved for PTSD.

This is only one aspect of the Massachusetts child welfare system that we are striving to fix. There are a host of other issues we are addressing as we gear up for the next stages of our fights there, in Texas and Rhode Island. We press on because we know our legal campaigns produce measurable results for children. You will see in this issue how Children’s Rights recently has effected change in metro Atlanta, Milwaukee and Connecticut, among other places.

Winning these fights is never easy, but we are bolstered by those who stand with us as we compel change. Thank you, and stay tuned for more good news.

Marcia Robinson Lowry
Executive Director

Read additional articles in Notes from the Field, the Children’s Rights Newsletter:
www.childrensrights.org/publications-multimedia/newsletter/