Through public policy advocacy, media relations and outreach efforts coordinated with partner organizations, National CASA takes the lead in responding to issues affecting abused and neglected children. In 2011, a series of studies directed national attention to the overmedication of America's foster youth. By some accounts, foster youth are prescribed psychotropic medications—those used for the treatment of behavioral and mental health issues—at up to 13 times the rate of their peers.
National media outlets picked up the story and sought possible explanations from leaders in the child welfare community. In interviews with Diane Sawyer, Anderson Cooper and others, National CASA CEO Michael Piraino described the state's responsibility to these children, sharing that while foster youth may be more troubled than the general population, the answer is not always to change their brain chemistry through medication.
On his 20/20 appearance, Piraino was accompanied by former foster youth Ke'onte, whose adoption into a loving family was facilitated by a Texas CASA program. When in foster care, Ke'onte was prescribed 12 medications. Today, he is off all of the medications and thriving. Describing the ill-effects of the drugs and the reasons for their prescription, today Ke'onte says: "I am not ADHD. I'm just naughty."
Read Piraino's editorial about overmedication of foster youth in the Huffington Post.
Watch clips of the national media coverage on National CASA's YouTube channel.