MD Y.A. v. Padilla


Children’s Rights—and partners Disability Rights Maryland, the ACLU of Maryland, and Morgan Lewis & Bockius, LLP—filed this case against the Maryland Department of Human Services (DHS) and Social Services Administration (SSA). The complaint asserts that for over a decade, DHS and SSA have failed to exercise adequate oversight while administering powerful psychotropic medications to children in the State’s foster system. The lawsuit covers all jurisdictions except Baltimore City, which is covered through separate ongoing litigation involving children in foster care.


U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland
January 17, 2023
Focus Areas
Psychotropics, Child Health, Families Together

Given their histories of trauma, children in foster care often display complex behaviors that call for the attention of mental health professionals. In response, they have frequently been prescribed one or more potentially dangerous psychotropic medications—drugs that directly affect the levels of chemicals in the brain that help to regulate emotions and behavior.

As many as 34% of children in Maryland’s foster care system are given psychotropics—with most prescribed more than one. According to recent data, nearly 75% of the children do not even have a psychiatric diagnosis, despite being on these drugs. The reality is even starker for Black children, who are more likely to be diagnosed with more serious mental health disorders and placed on psychotropic medications, often as a chemical restraint to sedate them and suppress their ability to move or think.

The complaint outlines dangerous failures on the part of SSA and DHS to serve as adequate custodians for children, including:

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