D. Judicial Review
The judiciary is charged with oversight of the safety, permanency and well-being of the children in their courts. Tex. Fam. Code § 266.007 requires that the judge overseeing the case review a summary of the medical care being provided to the child at each hearing held pursuant to Tex. Fam. Code Chapter 263, specifically the Permanency Hearings Before and After Final Order.
1. Court Shall Review Medical Summary
Tex. Fam. Code Chapter 266 requires the summary of medical care to include:
• The nature of any emergency medical care provided to the child and the circumstances necessitating emergency medical care, including any injury or acute illness suffered by the child;
• All medical and mental health treatment that the child is receiving and the child’s progress with the treatments;
• Any medication prescribed for the child and the condition, diagnosis, and symptoms for which the medication was prescribed and the child’s progress with the medication;
• The degree to which the child or foster care provider has complied or failed to comply with any plan of medical treatment for the child;
• Any adverse reaction to or side effects of any medical treatment provided to the child;
• Any specific medical condition of the child that has been diagnosed or for which tests are being conducted to make a diagnosis; and
• Any activity that the child should avoid or should engage in that might affect the effectiveness of the treatment, including physical activities, other medications, and diet. Tex. Fam. Code § 266.007.
Additional information may be required to effectively oversee that informed consent has been given. Tex. Fam. Code Chapter 266 requires that judges review the medical care at each hearing conducted under Tex. Fam. Code Chapter 263.
2. Foster Youth Must Be Heard at Each Hearing Held under Tex. Fam. Code Chapter 263
The Family Code provides that sixteen and seventeen-year-olds can serve as their own Medical Consenter with a judicial determination that the youth is capable of the role. Tex. Fam. Code § 266.010. If the youth is not the Medical Consenter, Tex. Fam. Code § 266.007(c) requires that he or she be provided the opportunity to express to the court their views on the medical care being provided. Further, Tex. Fam. Code § 263.302 requires that the youth attend Permanency Hearings before and after final order, although some stakeholders have shared concerns about their experiences in child welfare courts where children and youth do not routinely attend their hearings. This is especially concerning with older youth, who are more likely than younger foster youth to be prescribed psychotropic medications.
3. Judicial Psychotropic Medication Information Line
Another tool implemented in 2012 to improve information-sharing is the Judicial Medication Information Email Box (MedQuestions@Cenpatico.com) which allows judges to submit a request for general medication information. Emails are reviewed by a STAR Health Behavioral Health Service Manager, who has support from the STAR Health Behavioral Health Medical Director (child psychiatrist), the STAR Health Pharmacist and clinical managers. An example of an appropriate type of question for the email box is: What are the side effects of a particular medication or combination of medications on a 12-year-old girl who weighs 100 pounds? STAR Health also maintains a 24/7 Behavioral Health hotline with access to behavioral health professionals when urgent needs arise. The hotline can be reached at 1-866-218-8263.
4. Some Courts Use Standardized Court Report
In 2012, DFPS adopted a uniform court report which serves as a helpful tool for communication between CPS, the courts, and other parties. The standardized form provides a summary of medical information that directly follows Tex. Fam. Code § 266.007. The standardized report also includes the child’s age and weight as well as information about medication and dosage, condition and diagnosis, symptom(s) being treated, last medication review, and the prescribing physician. What is not included is the name of the authorized designated Medical Consenter or any psychotropic medication history, although this information may be provided verbally or located elsewhere in the court’s file.
5. Some Courts Use Specific Informed Consent Forms and Practices
Some Texas child welfare judges have adopted a practice of ordering that in non-urgent situations, Medical Consenters must appear in court before giving consent to medication regimens that fall outside the Parameters. Also, to augment the information-sharing process, some judges are asking the Medical Consenters to complete a checklist of questions before appearing in court to ensure that the Consenter considered the many steps to informed consent (as defined by the Parameters).