The Bay Area News Group’s “Drugging Our Kids” series, which revealed the excessive use of psychiatric drugs in California’s foster care system, was named a winner at the 15th annual Online Journalism Awards on Saturday.

The multimedia project tied with the “Bees on the Brink” series, on the death of honeybees and the effect on agriculture by the Star Tribune in Minneapolis, in the explanatory reporting category for large websites. Other finalists in the category were projects by the New York Times and Toronto Globe and Mail.


“Drugging Our Kids,” with reporting by Karen de Sá, photos and video by Dai Sugano, and digital presentation by E. Paul Baca and Qin Chen, included four stories and a 40-minute documentary video. The project, at, includes a series of follow-up stories and prompted immediate calls for reform in the nation’s largest foster care system.

California lawmakers introduced a four-bill legislative package, and the state medical board launched an ongoing investigation. Three proposed laws that would dramatically increase oversight of prescribing to foster youths passed both houses with unanimous votes this month and are now on Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk, and a fourth bill is expected to be finalized next year.

The series and the documentary are being used to train child psychiatrists, caregivers, judges, lawyers, social workers, foster parents, child advocates and graduate students of public policy who all play a vital role in the lives and protection of the 63,000 children now in California’s foster care system.

The Online Journalism Awards was launched in 2000 by the Online News Association, which includes media companies and nonprofit news organizations from around the globe, to honor the best in digital journalism.

Other winners in this year’s contest included the Denver Post, which like the Bay Area News Group is owned by Digital First Media, which was honored in the topical reporting category for its coverage of legalized recreational use of marijuana in Colorado. The Los Angeles News Group was named a finalist in the investigative data journalism category for its unsolved Los Angeles homicides database.