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Stop Warehousing Florida’s Foster Children

May 4th, 2009   No Comments   Foster Care

By Brian J. Cabrey, Esq.

The April 16 suicide death of 7 year old Gabriel Myers, a foster child in the custody and care of the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF), shocks the conscience.

Little Gabriel apparently hung himself with the shower hose in the bathroom of his foster home in Margate, Florida. The victim of sexual abuse, as well as other abuse and neglect that resulted in him being removed from his family and placed in foster care, Gabriel had been prescribed a variety of mind altering psychotropic medications while in foster care to deal with the myriad behavioral problems he was experiencing, no doubt largely the result of the abuse he had suffered. Reports are that he was on 3 or 4 different drugs, or combinations thereof, at the time of his death, all at the tender age of 7.

What is almost as shocking to the conscience as a 7 year old wanting to, knowing how to, and actually committing suicide, is that a 7-year-old would be on not just one, but multiple psychotropic medications.

Most such drugs have never been tested for pediatric use, and not been FDA approved for such use. Their prescription and use with kids is generally “off label,” meaning there are no approved instructions or guidelines for such use.

Too often these drugs are used by DCF as chemical restraints to deal with difficult children who exhibit undesirable, inappropriate, or dangerous behavior. Rather than deal with their underlying issues and problems, drugs are used to turn these children into non-disruptive zombies so that they can be safely placed in a foster home or institution.

A 2005 study revealed that 1 out of every 4 foster children in Florida is on some sort of psychotropic medication, including multiple children less than 1 year of age! Never mind that no research has been done as to the long term effects of such medications on a growing child’s brain. Such use of these medications is reprehensible and amounts to warehousing children. The goal is and should be to protect and rehabilitate children who have been harmed and damaged by abuse, abandonment, or neglect, not simply to store them away safely, only to be shown the door, and to the curb, when they turn 18 and age out of the foster care system.

In this case, little Gabriel didn’t even get that far. Instead, he ended up dead, at 7. Such a short, traumatic life, abruptly and prematurely ended in an equally tragic manner.

Godspeed little Gabriel. We’re sorry.

Brian J. Cabrey, Esq.
Zisser, Robison, Brown, Nowlis, Maciejewski & Cabrey, P.A.

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