On any given day, thousands of children in foster care across the country are administered psychotropic medications to address mental health and behavioral issues. Some of these children receive combinations of two, three, or more such medications at a time, often in elevated dosages. Some, like Joe, are even placed on antipsychotics, which led him to say, “I feel like I have knives in my eyes.”
I recall my first contact with police as a middle schooler. Two of my friends and I, all Black youths, were walking in our neighborhood. San Francisco’s Richmond district was diverse but mostly White then. It was a dark early evening. As the three of us were walking, a police car pulled up. The officers ordered us to empty our pockets. They searched us without asking for permission or explaining why they had stopped us. Finding nothing illegal, they departed without explanation or apology. We knew they had stopped us because we were Black. To them Black kids in a “White neighborhood” was synonymous with suspicious. They didn’t beat us or kill us. So the physical toll was light, but the psychological effects were deep. Afterward we had to question if the police would protect and serve us.
When S.H. entered the foster care system at age twelve, she had already suffered years of sexual abuse by her stepfather. She was around seventeen and a young mother, when her county welfare agency placed her in a Promesa Behavioral Health group home. Upon arrival, the group home made S.H. sign a document promising that she wouldn’t engage in sexual activity while she lived there.