The Massachusetts Department of Health and Human services laid out a reunification plan for the parents of a Connecticut teen who has been in state custody for more than a year after they were accused of medical child abuse in disputing a diagnosis and treatment plan.
Lou and Linda Pelletier were presented a plan that would bring their 15-year-old daughter Justina back to her home state of Connecticut, but the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families would continue to retain custody for the time being.
“Next week, Justina will move to JRI Susan Wayne Center for Excellence, a therapeutic education provider in Thompson, Connecticut. There, she will receive comprehensive services and supports closer to her family, friends, school and community,” HHS Secretary John Polanowic wrote in a letter to the Massachusetts House of Representatives Minority Leader Brad Jones.
The ultimate goal, Polanowic went on to say in the letter, is “returning [Justina] home as soon as possible.”
DCF will maintain custody of Justina until the juvenile court determines custody should be returned to her parents.
“As we have previously shared, DCF will support returning custody of Justina to her parents once they have engaged in the plan’s basic conditions,” Polanowic wrote.
These conditions being:
- Attend visits with Justina at the Susan Wayne Center for Excellence
- Follow through with the Tufts Medical Center care plan
- Participate in family therapy
- Meet with DCF to review progress
Polanowic said that JRI’s CEO would met with the Pelletiers to discuss Justina’s treatment plan further.
“We are confident that we have found the right pathway for Justina to return home as soon as possible so she can continue her strong recovery in Connecticut,” Polanowic wrote. “This is an important step forward in an extremely complex situation. We all want Justina to return home soon, and this plan provides a roadmap to make that happen.”
The family’s spokesman, Rev. Patrick Mahoney, told TheBlaze that supporters of the Pelletier family can’t get too excited about this plan.
Though Mahoney said officials sitting down with the family and Justina being moved to Connecticut is a positive step,”tragically there are so many things in the agreement that are not positive.”
Those being that in initial sit-down talks, he said the family had been talking about a plan that returned custody to the Pelletiers under certain conditions. This plan doesn’t take that approach.
Another negative, Mahoney said is that Justina is being put in what he called a “behavioral facility,” which he said is “extremely troubling because Justina doesn’t have psychological or behavioral problems.” What’s more, Mahoney also said that DCF still has control of what medications Justina can take as part of her medical plan and how often she sees her doctors.
“You can’t look at proposal outside of the lens of 15 months of how she was mistreated,” Mahoney said.
And finally, Mahoney said there’s no date for official reunification with the family if the Pelletiers meet all the proposals stipulations.
“It’s really troubling that people would try to say ‘well, the Pelletiers are being uncooperative or being difficult to work with, but the real issue here is the Pelletiers would be happy to submit to family counseling and discussions, if there was a reciprocal level of trust and commitment at end of all that that Justina would be returned home.”
Lou Pelletier says Massachusetts plan to move his daughter Justina is “another slap in the face, another kick in the stomach.”
— wburdebbecker (@wburdebbecker) May 5, 2014
Justina Pelletier was taken into state custody on Feb. 14, 2013, after her parents disagreed with a diagnosis and treatment plan recommended by doctors at Boston Children’s Hospital.
The Pelletiers had been treating Justina for mitochondrial disease, a cellular condition she was diagnosed with by Dr. Mark Korson at Tufts Medical Center. After complications with the flu last year, Justina was taken to Boston Children’s to see a gastrointestinal specialist but instead was seen by another doctor who said she had somatoform disorder, a psychiatric disorder that he said caused her symptoms, not mitochondrial disease.
When the Pelletiers a couple days later tried to discharge Justina and take her to Tufts, they were met with accusations of medical child abuse. The was granted custody of the teen and the Pelletiers have been working through the legal system to try and have their parental rights restored since.
The court’s most recent decision was for the state to retain permanent custody of Justina.
Justina remained in the care of Boston Children’s Hospital until early 2014 when she was transferred Wayside Youth and Family Support Network in Framingham, Massachusetts. After the Pelletiers weekly visit this past Friday — the family meets with Justina once a week — they said that Justina alleged harassment by staff.
“My sister expressed that she was in the shower and she was harassed while she was naked taking a shower by a staff member that didn’t even have privileges to be in the area of Justina’s bathroom,” Justina’s sister Jennifer told WCVB-TV.
“We strongly deny any allegations of abuse and believe that any third-party review of our care would support this position,” a spokeswoman for the agency countered to WCVB.
The family’s goal, Mahoney said, is to have Justina home by her birthday on May 24. When asked how feasible this looked, he told TheBlaze “it’s difficult to say.”