Saturday, 7 March 2009

Sarah Palin and the rights of children, part 2

I feel that the topic about the forced medication of children in care needs to be discussed further. There are fundamental questions which have been overlooked.

The issue of the forced medication of mentally ill people in state institutions is not new. It has been going on for ages in just about every country. It is a lot cheaper to drug people to their eyeballs rather than offer adequate treatment. Mental health is an area still riddled with taboos and misconceptions. The rich won't normally admit to being afflicted by mental illness, but have access to the best care and are able to make informed decisions about their treatment. If they are unable to take responsibility for their own wellbeing, they will probably have relatives or other advocates to act on their behalf.

That is not the case of vulnerable people who find themselves cared for by the state. They are the individuals in correctional facilities, psychiatric hospitals and children in care. People don't end up in these circumstances by choice or because their lives are fantastic but they happen to make some mistake and oops, find themselves locked up somewhere! More often than not they come from problematic families and carry with them some very heavy baggage. How many of them are in a position to make informed decisions about anything, let alone about their mental health? How many have advocates when the need arises?

I am going to focus on children because I have experience in dealing with "difficult" children. I spent twenty five years fighting for their rights. What do I consider to be the rights of children?
  • The right to be loved, to have their emotional needs met.
  • The right to grow up in a safe environment, to be free from fear.
  • The right to have their basic requirements addressed in the areas of education and health.
  • The right to be recognised as our future and to have some investment made in order to fulfil their potential.
  • The right to be supported when having difficulties.
  • The right to be treated and respected as human beings.
I believe ALL children are entitled to all of the above.

Over the years I have seen many professionals in children's services and the medical profession take the easy way out. Diagnosing children as suffering from some condition and prescribing drugs is easier than investigating and addressing the reasons behind their difficult behaviour. Many social workers and teachers are very quick to label children as this or the other and to put them in categories where they remain, their labels following them from school to school and they are rarely given a chance to shake them off.

The majority of children who are treated in this way come from deprived backgrounds, with uneducated or abusive parents. Of course there are children with loving parents who are misdiagnosed and labelled, they are at the mercy of the medical professionals and the large pharmaceutical companies, but that's another story.

Children do not choose to have a social worker, they do not choose to go into foster care or to live in an institution. Through no fault of their own, they end up having all decisions about their lives being made by people who have no emotional investment in them. The professionals. The people who act on behalf of the state.

Deciding that children in care will have their needs met through medication is to take the shortest of short cuts. There will be a percentage who might benefit from specialist treatment and appropriate drugs. Unfortunately, the trend is to make difficult - but not mentally ill - children docile through drugs to make life easier for the adults involved in their care. It is also a lot cheaper than treating them as individuals and making provision to solve their problems effectively.

Children are taken into the care of the state because somebody failed them. If their real needs are not addressed, they are very likely to find themselves in one of the other state institutions mentioned earlier - as adults.

My question is: are children taken into care so they can be failed again?


crystalwolf aka caligrl said...

Regina, your love for children really shines in this post!
I was told many years ago my Son was hyper and needed to be kept back (in grade K)I also put him on the "Feinglold diet" I think it could of been partially true,(hyper) he would go to his grandparents house and get fed candy, candy and more candy, and hot dogs and MSG and come home bouncing off the walls! My father thought I was depriving him by not giving him candy???
I finally changed school and had a totally different reaction there, the Principal was very caring and involved in the students and the teachers also.When I told of my experience at the other school he invited to to become a "yard supervisor" which I did.
My Son was not Hyper! He was bored and the teacher at the other school couldn't/wouldn't cope with him, choosing to "label" him. Thank god no one ever suggested any type of medicine. He went on to excel in sports and art.
There are too many teachers/counselors quick to label a kid ADHD, Hyper, or whatever. It was true my Son was very much affected by sugar and MSG food additives. But to label him hyper?
I'm glad I changed schools and things turned out better, some kids don't have people/parents looking out for them. Children and the Elderly with Alzheimer's are more likely to be rx'd these drugs.
These drugs have shown to be dangerous and should not be rx'd like candy!
Maybe some kind of law that a child has to be evaluated by more than one medical professional?
You've raised some very good questions here.

Dianne said...

It makes me wonder how children lived and thrived before the world of "miracle drugs" occurred. These problem children - what did the school system do with them then? When I was attending grade school, I don't remember ANY child being on ritilan or any kind of psychotropic drug. What has changed - the children or the world?

Jill said...

I couldn't agree more about the importance of this matter. It is criminal what happens to some children and how little attention this gets. You are doing a wonderful series, please keep it up. Thank you!

Philip Munger at Progressive Alaska has an interesting video of Sarah, Trig and Piper.
'Gov. Palin's Recorded Address to the 2009 Special Olympics in Boise'.

Anonymous said...

Excellent, Excellent, Post. You make some very good points and raise some especially relevant questions. Thank you.