ABC News Investigation: Diane Sawyer and Sharyn Alfonsi to Report on the Overmedication of Children in the U.S. Foster Care System

By David Ford

Nov 30, 2011 4:30pm

Reports to Air Beginning Wednesday, November 30 on “World News with Diane Sawyer” and Concluding with In Depth Reporting on “20/20″ Friday, December 2

“ABC World News” anchor Diane Sawyer continues her reporting on the United States foster care system with a new series of reports – “Generation Meds.” Following a year-long investigation, Sawyer and Sharyn Alfonsi uncover a startling reality: many foster children, even as young as one-year olds, are being prescribed powerful mind-altering drugs at alarming rates — up to 13 times higher than that of other children. As part of its investigation ABC News was given a first look at a groundbreaking two-year study by the General Accounting Office (GAO) which finds that the federal government has not done enough to protect America’s foster children from being over medicated with these powerful drugs. Reports will air on “World News with Diane Sawyer” beginning on Wednesday, November 30 and will conclude with a special report on “20/20″ Friday, December 2 at 10:00 PM on the ABC Television Network.

Viewers will hear from a number of foster children across the country – like 11-year-old Ke’onte from Texas, who after suffering a childhood filled with neglect was bounced between six foster homes and hospitals over just four years. Ke’onte was put on at least 12 psychiatric medications while in foster care, up to four at the same time. While experts acknowledge children in foster care may have more emotional and behavioral issues, they do not believe this alone justifies the magnitude of the overuse of psychiatric medications. “I was on a whole lot of medicines that I should have not been on,” Ke’onte told Sawyer. Diane Sawyer goes looking for answers – starting in the nation’s capitol asking federal agencies in charge: What is being done to protect these children?

Plus, Sharyn Alfonsi confronts the doctors and asks are they too quick to pick up the prescription pad when dealing with damaged kids in the foster system, including a Florida doctor who prescribed a cocktail of psychiatric medication to a troubled little boy who then took his own life.

And, Sawyer revisits Maryhurst, a unique residential treatment program for kids with the toughest childhoods and deepest traumas; 75 percent enter the facility on these powerful drugs – when they leave, nearly three quarters are on a reduced number of medications or none at all.

This is the third series of reports from Sawyer on the foster care system. Sawyer’s first report, “For the Sake of the Children,” aired on “Primetime” in 2002. “Calling All Angels,” a special “Primetime” report which aired in 2006, cast a light on many of the young, fractured lives in foster care across the country and the ways those children can be saved. The report was recognized with the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award.

Viewers who want to share their thoughts on the reports should use the twitter hash tag #FosterChange to join in the conversation.

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