Katherine Schumacher

Grant Type

Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Institutional Affiliation

Chicago, U. of

Grant number

Gr. 9652

Approve Date

April 16, 2018

Project Title

Schumacher, Katherine A., U. of Chicago, Chicago, IL - To aid research on 'An Ethnographic Study of Psychotropic Drugs and Professional Practices in Illinois's Child Welfare System,' supervised by Dr. E. Summerson Carr

KATHERINE A. SCHUMACHER, then a graduate student at University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois, received funding in April 2018 to aid research on ‘An Ethnographic Study of Psychotropic Drugs and Professional Practices in Illinois’s Child Welfare System,’ supervised by Dr. E. Summerson Carr. As child welfare systems across the US have begun to oversee and monitor the prescription of psychotropic drugs to youth in foster care, Illinois’s regulatory model has served as an exemplar. This 18-month multi-sited ethnographic study was designed to follow drugs through Illinois’s regulatory process by moving between the state’s oversight program and a residential treatment center, sites that are linked by the documents through which prescribing practices are regulated. In both settings, professionals are trying to regulate clinical experiments, though not of the same kind. While state regulators work to ensure prescribers are conducting rational, evidence-based medication treatment, administrative staff at the residential center try to ensure that professionals create a therapeutic holding environment rather than simply enforcing institutional rules. In the former setting, drugs are considered therapeutic agents that treat neurochemical disorders. In the latter, they are considered therapeutic mediators that facilitate treatment by reducing the severity of problem behaviors (thus preventing institutional disorder) so youth can engage in therapeutic relationships. The study concludes that while the focus on facilitating clinical experimentation has reparative possibilities, it also elides the fact that drugs — and the professionals who work with them — are not just experimental objects. They are laborers.