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Recently, in a Texas Committee hearing on Psychotropic Drugs and Foster Care Children, a psychiatrist, Joe Burkett, testified regarding foster care children. In what proved to be one shocking and horrific moment for child advocates everywhere, he informed the committee that one of the main reasons so many foster kids need to be on psychotropic drugs is that “they are very sick, from a Bad Gene pool”.
Last week in Austin, civil rights groups and critics of the state’s welfare agency, of which included the NAACP, demanded the resignation of this psychiatrist.
Ablechild is in full support of the NAACP’s request. We wholeheartedly assert that we will continue to back groups committed to safeguarding children’s rights. We reassert the call for an immediate and swift kick out of office for this psychiatrist, who clearly, by his flippant and de-humanistic statements, is not representing children’s health and safety.
In response to Civil Rights groups call for his resignation, Joe Burkett, in the Dallas Morning News, October 27, 2004, said that he did nothing wrong and has no plans to quit. Questioned regarding his “Gene Pool” statement Burkett responded to the Dallas Morning News stating, “There are pretty strong genetic factors in mental illness. The comment…was really a comment about the fact that these children are in the foster care system because they don’t have normal parents making good decisions….” “That’s really the connection I’m making with genetics.”
Based upon Burkett’s recent statements, Ablechild as well as other civil rights advocates call upon Burkett to produce certifiable evidence of these “genetic factors” in foster care children.
Burkett is well aware, as are we, that there are No objective tests to verify with certainty a genetic component for mental illness. Unless Burkett can miraculously pull out of his hat scientific proof in the form of a blood test, x-ray, biopsy, or exact brain scan verifying such a statement, he should be held accountable for deceiving the public, and attempting to divert public attention away from his original and most damaging statement.
Just one example of the division within the psychiatric and medical community regarding how “scientific” psychiatric diagnoses truly are can be pulled from Clinical Psychiatry News, January 2000. Dr. Theodore Pearlman, a psychiatrist in Houston, speaking about the DSM-IV, the billing bible for psychiatry and what psychiatric diagnoses are based upon, stated that DSM-IV has gone too far. “There are too many diagnoses without any objective basis or biological support,” Dr. Pearlman went on to say.
This is one doctor out of many who have challenged the “genetic factor” and or elusive “chemical imbalance”, clearly recognizing their theoretical foundations demonstrating lack of proof.
Burkett’s comments highlight the failed approach psychiatry as a whole has marketed to the public encompassing both our foster care system and education system. Psychiatrists, like Burkett, should be held accountable for putting forth misleading and biased information to the public to skew perception or understanding of this topic.
“Marketing theories of “bad genes,” “chemical imbalances,” or “diseases” for diagnoses such as ADHD for one, has led to a tremendous increase in the number of children labeled mentally ill and trafficked into drug use without proper and full informed consent”, said Sheila Matthews, Vice President of Ablechild.org a grassroots parent organization dedicated to safeguarding children’s rights and ensuring that all receive full informed consent prior to any psychiatric “treatment”.
Children falsely accused of suffering from subjective mental disorders is a disturbing issue that has been taking place without question for far too many years. It is painfully obvious to so many now that the Psychiatric Industry is allowed to oversee the foster care system without any independent oversight or accountability. It has been a long time without justice for these children. They deserve more.
We need to recognize that it is the time to act and attempt to get both educational and healthy non-drug approaches over the walls to these unprotected children, instead of promoting and allowing the psychiatric gatekeepers and their tentative theories to remain at the helm.
For more information on mental health and its role in foster care abuse and for recent information on the FDA’s issuance of Black Box Warnings on Antidepressants given to children nationwide please visit our site at www.ablechild.org