As a retired member of the U.S. Capitol Police, Antoinette Jeffries respects authority. As a Court Appointed Special Advocate, she also challenges it. She has repeatedly done both if she believes a foster child has been unnecessarily or excessively medicated.
“I’m passionate about this,” said Antoinette, who has confronted medical doctors and psychiatrists, teachers, foster parents and judges. “I ask, ‘Why? Why are these children on medication? Do they really need it? Is it helping? Or is it hurting? Says who?’”
Since becoming a CASA five years ago, Antoinette has asked these questions on behalf of five foster children, most recently three siblings – two grade-school brothers and their teenage sister. Each time, the medication was reduced or eliminated.
In one case, a judge accepted Antoinette’s recommendation to order the Department of Social Services to get a new psychiatrist for a child who had been placed on medication after being diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). At times, the child had seemed hyperactive and inattentive. Other times, the child seemed lethargic. The new psychiatrist stopped all medication, and the child soon began doing much better in school and made the honor roll.
“What a difference,” Antoinette said.
ADHD is a common diagnosis among children, particularly those in foster care. It’s also a common misdiagnosis, particularly among children who are considered difficult to handle. Medication often makes them sluggish and easier to manage.
“I met with one psychiatrist and asked why one of the boys was on medication,” Antoinette said. “He got the chart. He said the boy was already on medication when he got the case.”
“He then pulled out a report from the boy’s teacher and quoted her as saying the boy doesn’t pay attention, often looks out the window when he should be listening and constantly moves from one thing to another.”
I said, “‘You just described me. A lot of people do that and they aren’t on medication.’”
Antoinette became a CASA shortly after retiring from the Capitol Police. “I read that foster children needed help, and I figured that I could help,” she said. “I had no idea that it would get me involved in questioning medication, but I’m glad it did.”
Sarah Bosken, Antoinette’s CASA Supervisor, is also pleased with Antoinette’s interest in medication. They often discuss medication in preparing Antoinette’s reports to the court on each of her foster youth.
“Antoinette isn’t an anti-medication crusader,” Sarah said. “She’s an appropriate medication crusader. Most CASAs are reluctant to challenge medications because they aren’t doctors. But Antoinette is willing to ask the uncomfortable questions, and has gotten results.”