Giovan Bazan, 21, speaks at the 11th annual CHRIS KIDS fundraiser in September, 2011. Atlanta, Ga.

Georgia Advocate Speaks Out Against Psychiatric Medication Use in Nation’s Foster Care System

Alongside photographs of rocker Jon Bon Jovi and Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, Giovan Bazan looks downright blithe. Although they tower over him, the tuxedo-clad Bazan wearing a slight smirk, his gelled hair and pierced ears sharply contrasting his suit-and-tie apparel.

With his cheery disposition, you wouldn’t suspect Bazan had a troubled childhood. In reality, the 21-year-old has spent a majority of his life in foster homes, and for most of his childhood, he was prescribed anti-depressants and behavioral disorder drugs.

“I went into foster care at 11 months old,” the Los Angeles native said. “When I was six, they put me on medication.”

By many accounts Bazan has come a long way since his days in foster care. In September he spoke at Atlanta-based CHRIS KIDS’ 11th annual fundraiser alongside towering protraits of celebrities. He has adressed state legislature multiple times about issues pressing foster youth in the state. He has managed to turn his troubled childhood into a stepping stone, not a crux.

Kathy Colbenson, CEO of CHRIS KIDS and co-organizer of the fundraiser, said Bazan’s combination of determination, will and outlook has set a tremendous example for children around the nation facing similar circumstances.

“I think what he’s doing is awesome,” she said.

Crossover Day Is Here: The Latest On Juvenile Justice, Child Focused Legislation

Today is Crossover Day — the critical mid-point in the legislative session, when Senate bills move over to the House and House bills transition to the Senate. Any House bills that have not passed their chamber of origin will not progress in 2011. Because this is the first year of the  two-year legislative cycle, any bills that fail to cross over may still be considered in 2012. Here’s an update on some of the legislation pertaining to young people in Georgia and juvenile justice issues that JJIE.org has been following. Senate Bills

SB 31 would expand attorney-client privilege to cover parents’ participation in private conversations with defense attorneys representing their children in delinquent or criminal cases. The bill introduced in January by Sen. Jason Carter (D-Decatur) gives the child – not the parent – exclusive rights to waive the privilege. This measure passed the Senate on February 23 and now awaits consideration by the House Civil Judiciary Committee. Introduced last month by Sen. Joshua McKoon (R-Columbus), SB 80 would require any person, including a juvenile arrested for a felony offense, to give a DNA sample.  It would be analyzed and kept in a database by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.

Oliver’s Strategy to Stop the Overmedication of Foster Children

 
 

State Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver (D-Decatur)

says too many of Georgia’s 7,000 foster children are being over prescribed potent, mood-altering psychotropic drugs. Some are being given more than four different medications daily, many of which have serious side effects and have not been tested and approved as safe for children. HB 23, she says, can help begin to address the complex problems that this dangerous practice imposes on some of Georgia’s most vulnerable young people. She also insists that a major overhaul of the current process could save our financially strapped state lots of money. Here’s what Rep. Oliver, who represents a portion of middle DeKalb County, told JJIE.org’s Chandra Thomas about the “Foster Children’s Psychotropic Medication Monitoring Act” that she has introduced in the House.