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Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Insights from A. Lynn Keller

We all undergo difficult periods in our lives. We might say something without thinking, yell or cry at an inopportune moment, or neglect to consider another person's feelings... Stress, hormones and/or life-altering events can cause us to behave in a way that is less than our best.

When those moments come into our lives, we want support and understanding from other people. For this reason and many others, I wish my social worker had thought to question my medical diagnosis after I entered foster care.

Young people in foster care are often diagnosed with mental disorders for being impulsive, emotional, inattentive or defiant. Psychiatrists can be contextually insensitive by not considering the environmental reasons behind the behavior. Part of being a teenager is having mood swings. Part of surviving a crazy home life might mean exhibiting unusual behavior.

I am currently a bilingual Rotary Scholar, a writer, a graduate student, happily in love with a wonderful man, a yogi, a tutor and an aspiring filmmaker. But I still suffer from long-term medical problems that are a direct result of the medication I was given as a child.

Social workers should research the disorders that young people are labeled with and the side effects of their medication. Psychotropic drugs have not been tested on children because they were created for adults. Sedating young people might make them easier to handle - but it doesn't teach them how to deal with the past and adapt to the future.

- A. Lynn Keller is a member of Foster Care Alumni of America who is accomplishing great things. Please visit her web site: