ERLINE KIDD doesn't want her 8-year-old
daughter to end up like a boy named Cecil Reed - a corpse at
the city morgue.
Kidd fears for the life of her daughter Shaevonnah - "Shae"
- because she's in the custody of the city's Administration
for Children's Services - just like Cecil was.
And just like Cecil, ACS is allowing doctors to give Shae a
cocktail of psychiatric medications that Kidd feels is harming
Kidd's objections are being ignored, just like those of
Cecil's father, who stopped complaining April 7, 2000, when
his 16-year-old son suffered a heart attack triggered by a
combination of four drugs, and died.
"I was begging them to stop," said Cecil Reed Jr., a city
worker who lives in The Bronx.
"Jesus," said Dr. Peter Breggin, an author and critic of
psychiatric treatment of children. "They were treating him
like you would treat a raving psychotic."
ACS says it doesn't know how many of its 31,000 children
are on psychiatric medication, but advocacy groups say
complaints from parents arrive at their offices on a "regular
A state audit of 401 randomly selected kids last year found
that more than half were being treated for mental problems -
and that most likely means medication.
Some advocates charge the foster-care agencies contracted
to care for nearly 90 percent of ACS's children use medication
to "control" the emotionally troubled kids.
Parents like those of Tariq Mohammad, 16, face
medical-neglect charges in Family Court if they object too
Tariq was on medication for schizophrenia, an illness he
says he never had, and its side effects made him violently
ill. The family sued ACS in civil court and won after a
court-appointed psychiatrist determined Tariq didn't need any
"I am outraged, not just for me, but for many kids that are
being medicated," Tariq said. "It really screwed me up. I
guess they do it because they don't want to deal with us."
Tariq, who lived in the foster system since he was 11, says
his pleas for an alternative treatment were summarily ignored.
The ACS says parents are entitled to get a second medical
opinion or hire a lawyer to fight the case in court.
The mad rush to medicate, a nationwide phenomenon, is
especially delicate with foster kids. The ACS relies on the
judgment of doctors subcontracted by its 60 foster agencies to
evaluate and treat children, agency spokeswoman Jennifer Faulk
The ACS is supposed to monitor the treatment, but
overworked caseworkers can't - or don't - micromanage each
kid, so they defer to doctors.
Hank Orenstein, the director of the advocacy agency C-Plan,
said the ACS exhibits a "naivete" in mental-health services.
"It's a relief to have other professions make the decision
but as you can see some children are not always best served
with medication," said Orenstein, whose group is part of
Public Advocate Mark Green's office.
Parents end up becoming helpless watchdogs handcuffed by
bureaucracy and poverty.
"I hated it," said Cecil Reed's father, a Baptist church
deacon, describing the slow medication death of his son at the
Bronx Children's Psychiatric Center.
Reed began noticing a problem with Cecil's treatment three
years before his son died. Reed, who was threatened with
medical-neglect charges, said Cecil was "sleepwalking" after
the hospital began serving the boy cocktails.
Doctors said Cecil had schizoaffective disorder and
post-traumatic stress disorder but his father claims his son
wasn't insane, just a strong-willed kid who like any youngster
would lash out after being separated from family and friends.
"Daddy, I don't want to take medicine anymore . . . They
are just using me as a guinea pig," Reed remembers his son
When the usually cooperative Reed questioned the medication
in late 1999, the hospital simply got consent from the ACS
behind the father's back, he charged. Faulk didn't respond to
He learned about the deadly cocktail the day after his son
The autopsy report notes Cecil's body contained
"potentially toxic" levels of pindolol, a heart-damaging drug
never tested or recommended for children.
Breggin said serving these cocktails to children is "so
dangerous and experimental that it wouldn't be permitted under
any legitimate rule of research."
The ACS, the state's Office of Children and Family Services
and the state Office of Mental Health, which runs the Bronx
facility where Cecil died, refused to comment because the
family plans to sue.
Erline Kidd's face sunk when she was told about Cecil. Kidd
charged she always learns about the drug cocktails her
daughter gets after the fact. All contact with her daughter's
doctor is arranged by the ACS.
Kidd, a reformed cocaine addict, is fighting two wars: to
get her daughter back from the ACS, like she did with her two
sons, ages 12 and 9, in January, and to stop the drugging of
Little Shae is on Seroquel and Thorazine for psychosis, and
four other drugs.
"I just know it's too much - my daughter is like a zombie,"
the mother said. "One time I saw her and I wanted to grab her