Written by Michael Sullivan
Imagine that you are a young child being taken away from your home by no fault of your own. Imagine the rush of emotions you would feel at that moment and probably for the rest of your life. You are no longer a member of a family, but a ward of the court and property of the state you reside in. You are being passed from home to home, school to school and seeing doctors to work on the feelings you are having. Instead of being encouraged to make friends, participate in activities or work out your emotions in a healthy manner, you are being prescribed anti-depressant medications that suppress your emotions and cause you to lose the emotional memories of your past. These are the events that a number of children in the foster care system are faced with each day.
According to the Senate Caucus on Foster Youth “Call to Action,” there is currently no law that prohibits the prescription of psychotropic medications to children in the foster care system. Children who are barely able to comprehend what is taking place in their lives are being forced to take a variety of different medications and are having their emotions suppressed for years rather than dealing with them in a safer way.
After speaking with individuals within the foster care system regarding this matter, it is evident that quite often these children are misdiagnosed with very severe mental illnesses, when in reality, the children are just experiencing normal emotions regarding their past and current situations. If everything you ever knew was taken from you at a young age and you were forced to constantly transfer school districts, leave your family and have no consistent friendships, would you feel upset, exhausted and distant? I’m willing to bet you would. One testimonial received from a foster youth was that he was diagnosed with Dissociative Identity Disorder and forced to take a “cocktail” of medications to cope with that disorder along with a number of others. The reality of the situation was that he was just a sad child trying to cope with what happened to him in his past and worried about how he was going to survive the future.
During Cabrini Day, we as students and faculty are focusing on orphans and vulnerable children. When thinking about that, we should be thinking of foster children, who are both orphans and vulnerable children. These are people that have very little say about what happens in their own lives and are basically forced to do the will of the court systems and of the state governance regarding foster care. Although not often thought about during your day-to-day routine, these children are in need of better laws and better support in order for them to lead a more “normal” life. Although being part of the solution cannot be forced upon you, I would like to offer a few options on how you can make a difference in the foster care system.
Students, if you wish to become more informed on the issue of foster care, you should consider taking ECG 300: Foster Care Advocacy. This is a course in which you will learn how the system works, what laws are in place, and what you could do to change them. You can also perform individual research on the foster care system and see exactly what is happening within the foster care system. Petition the government at the county level to have certain issues looked at and have possible suggestions for improvement. I would also be willing to guess that between the faculty and willing students, a school group could be formed to allow Cabrini to express their thoughts in a small, forum-like environment. Through strength in numbers, hopefully change can be made to a system that needs it.