Research Article| Volume 41, P35-42, December 2022

Minding the complexities of psychotropic medication management for children and youth in the foster care system

Paper 1: The facilitators and barriers to learning about trauma-informed medication management

      Overarching abstract

      The phenomenon of inappropriate polypharmacy among the foster care population arises in part due to the challenges related to integrating trauma-informed principles into service delivery. It is further exacerbated by the complexity of intersecting systems in which child welfare case workers need to communicate, including foster and biological parents, social service agencies, and advocates. Yet, there is limited research about trauma-informed psychotropic medication management interventions for child welfare staff. This pilot study was conducted to evaluate a trauma-informed psychotropic medication management intervention and is reported in two manuscripts, pertaining respectively to the facilitators and barriers to learning, and perceived individual and institutional trauma responsiveness. The intervention comprised of a 2-hour-long training session for child welfare staff and a 3-month web-based curriculum for leadership personnel, aiming to increase their understanding of trauma-informed psychotropic medication management. In the first paper, we report on the facilitators and barriers to learning, grouped into three categories: teacher attributes, learner attributes, and situational factors. In the second paper, in addition to trauma responsiveness ratings, we also provide a detailed account of one participant's life experience and perceptions of the intervention provided, as an exemplar of the psychosocial facets of resilience. The ABC Medication Scale scores that measured staff knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors associated with medications used to treat mental health symptoms showed a significant change in scores following training. Based on these findings, we provide practical solutions to address situational factors that are worth considering when providing training for child welfare staff.

      Paper 1 abstract: the facilitators and barriers to learning about trauma-informed medication management

      Given that foster care children experience many challenges that threaten their well-being, their physical and mental health needs tend to be greater than those of their peers who are not in foster care. However, owing to the transient nature of the foster care placements, as well as continuous changes in medical providers and counselors, the screenings, supportive interventions, and treatments they receive may be fragmented. This is particularly problematic when considering that many of these children are medicated as a means of managing their behavior. Moreover, children in foster care are also more vulnerable to having the medications and diagnoses accumulate due to frequent placement changes and lack of treatment continuity. Our research was guided by the question “What are the facilitators and barriers to learning about trauma-informed psychotropic medication management?” We developed an intervention to address the issue of inappropriate polypharmacy and examined the facilitators and barriers to learning using a mixed methods design. The facilitators to learning were instructor-specific (e.g., reputation, teaching style, capacity for selecting and implementing relevant resources), learner-specific (altruism, capacity to see personal relevance in the learning situation, desire for knowledge/competence, career advancement/recognition-seeking), and situational (immediacy/on-demand resources, reinforcement of pleasant learning experience). Barriers were largely situational (workload and family demands). Based on these findings, we provide practical strategies for addressing situational factors that are worth considering when designing training curricula aimed at child welfare staff.


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