Psychotropic medication use in a national probability sample of children in the child welfare system

Ramesh Raghavan, Bonnie T. Zima, Ronald M. Andersen, Arleen A. Leibowitz, Mark A. Schuster, John Landsverk

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Objectives: The aim of this study was to estimate the point prevalence of psychotropic medication use, and to describe relationships between child-level characteristics, provider type, and medication use among children in the child welfare system. Methods: The National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-Being is the first nationally representative study of children coming into contact with the child welfare system. We used data from its baseline and 12-month follow-up waves, and conducted weighted bivariate analyses on a sample of 3114 children and adolescents, 87% of whom were residing in-home. Results: Overall, 13.5% of children in child welfare were taking psychotropic medications in 2001-2002. Older age, male gender, Caucasian race/ethnicity, history of physical abuse, public insurance, and borderline scores on the internalizing and externalizing subscales of the Child Behavior Checklist were associated with higher proportions of medication use. African-American and Latino ethnicities, and a history of neglect, were associated with lower proportions of medication use. Conclusions: These national estimates suggest that children in child welfare settings are receiving psychotropic medications at a rate between 2 and 3 times that of children treated in the community. This suggests a need to further understand the prescribing of psychotropic medications for child welfare children.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)97-106
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Child and Adolescent Psychopharmacology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2005

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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