The Massachusetts Department of Children & Families on Friday broke its silence about the high-profile case involving a Connecticut teenager taken away from her parents last year after a disagreement over a diagnosis led to accusations of medical child abuse.
“Our primary goal has always been the health and well-being of Justina,” DCF spokesman Alec Loftus said in an emailed statement about the case surrounding Justina Pelletier, who has been out of her parents’ custody for more than a year now.
“We want the parents to be able to work with the providers and courts to ultimately move Justina back to her home state of Connecticut,” Loftus continued. “That is the objective, and is consistent with our previous efforts to find an appropriate placement near her home. A medical team has been identified at Tufts, the family’s provider of choice, with the clinical expertise to care for Justina.”
The agency is withdrawing its motion, issued last week, to have Lou Pelletier, Justina’s father, held in contempt of court for breaking a gag order, an official said.
But Lou Pelletier said he’s not necessarily getting his hopes up.
“They have thrown more carrots out there over the last 13 months, dangling, teasing us, and that’s the cruelest thing you can do,” he told TheBlaze over the phone as he was driving to Boston to visit his daughter for the once-a-week, hour-long appointment that the family is allowed.
Lou Pelletier said his family has been offered hope of having custody restored several times in the last year and has always come away disappointed.
DCF took emergency custody of Justina, now 15 years old, on Feb. 14, 2013, after a team at Boston Children’s Hospital alleged that the Pelletiers were over-medicalizing their daughter in treating her for mitochondrial disease. According to the Pelletiers, doctors at Boston Children’s said she does not have mitochondrial disease, a condition that was diagnosed by a doctor at Tufts Medical Center years earlier, but has somatoform disorder, which would put the root cause of Justina’s symptoms as psychological.
Since then, the Pelletiers have had several court hearings as they tried to regain custody and medical care of their daughter. Patient and human rights advocates have taken up the cause in recent months to support the Pelletiers, and even more recently some state legislators have spoken out.
Suffolk County Juvenile Court Judge Joseph Johnson on Monday ruled that Justina be moved into a foster care facility from the Framingham, Mass., facility where she had been living after being removed from Boston Children’s Hospital last month. Two days later, the foster care facility refused to take her in.
Lou Pelletier told TheBlaze that he had no idea DCF would be releasing a statement and hadn’t even read the whole of it when called for comment.
“They throw out these carrots and these little teases just to string us along,” he said. “Actions speak louder than words.”
At this point, Lou Pelletier said, he thinks “DCF has destroyed my daughter” and has “crossed the line so many times.” Therefore, he added, “we’re in it to win it.”
Mat Staver, one of the Pelletier’s lawyers with Liberty Counsel, told TheBlaze he sees DCF’s statement as them responding to a push for change.
“When [DCF] got challenged and it came to light, they decided to back off,” Staver said.
But he added that he thinks the agency needs to be held accountable.
“We will not rest [until] DCF is completely out of this case, and DCF has to be held accountable for [its] neglegent actions,” Staver said.
The next scheduled court hearing on the case is March 17.