California making strides toward protecting youth in foster care

California Governor Jerry Brown signed several laws this month that stand to have a far-reaching impact on children in the state’s child welfare system.

Last week, Brown signed a set of three laws to curb the overprescribing of psychotropic drugs in foster care, following a five-part San Jose Mercury News investigation revealing nearly 1 in 4 teens in the state’s care were receiving psychotropic medication, which in many cases lead to debilitating side effects from lethargy to morbid obesity.

For the first time, the state will train caregivers and court officials on the hazards of psychotropic drugs, scour medicated children’s health records for alarming prescriptions and step up scrutiny of residential facilities that rely too heavily on the medications to control kids’ behavior, according to San Jose Mercury News.

Brown also signed a first-of-its-kind-law that takes a critical initial step in providing new protections for transgender youth in state care.

According to The Advocate, the legislation explicitly requires caregivers and state agents to take a young person’s gender identity into consideration when placing foster children into supportive facilities. Prior to the new law, existing legislation did not provide specific guidance on placing trans and gender-nonconforming youth in supportive homes or gender-segregated housing.

“Too often, transgender kids are placed into home situations that are even more hostile than the ones they left,” Equality California executive director Rick Zbur said in a statement. “This law is simple common sense and will help ensure that vulnerable children are kept safe.”