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Conservative Review

'Scathing audit' of Mass. agency that held Justina Pelletier

The Massachusetts Department of Children and Families is the subject of a “scathing audit” by the commonwealth’s auditor Suzanne Bump.

The report covers the years 2014-2015 and outlines multiple instances where the agency did not properly report the abuse of children in its care. CRTV host Michelle Malkin recently detailed the case of one Justina Pelletier on Michelle Malkin Investigates. 

Last week, I wrote about the maddening case of medical kidnapping involving Justina:

In February 2013, Linda and Lou Pelletier had their daughter Justina, then 14, transported in an ambulance to Boston’s Tufts Medical Center from their home in Connecticut. Upon arrival, they learned that Justina’s gastroenterologist, one of a team of doctors who was treating her mitochondrial disease, had transferred to Boston Children’s Hospital (BCH). Justina’s primary specialist at Tufts strongly urged the Pelletiers to transfer Justina to BCH to see that gastroenterologist. It was a decision that changed their lives forever.

When the Pelletiers arrived at BCH, a series of events unfolded that began a 16-month ordeal that no family should ever have to go through. Rather than seeing Justina’s gastroenterologist, the Pelletiers were confronted by a team of doctors at BCH who decided that the girl did not have mitochondrial disease, that her symptoms were a psychiatric disorder known as somatoform disorder, and that the underlying cause of her symptoms was all in her head. Pelletier, just weeks earlier, had been an active 14-year-old and was now dealing with crippling pain. But in their minds, she was not suffering from mitochondrial disease but was instead a psychiatric patient.

When Justina’s parents strongly objected to this new course of treatment and demanded that she see her gastroenterologist, BCH sprang into even more severe action. In conjunction with the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families (DCF), BCH in effect stole Justina from her parents and were made the sole arbiters of her care plan. Justina’s months of captivity had begun.

She was not released until after her 16th birthday. 

During that time, DCF was the subject of almost daily news reports of neglect of the children entrusted to them. This included 5-year-old Jeremiah Oliver, who was found dead on the side of the road in Sterling, Mass. State leaders vowed they would push DCF to do better. The audit released Thursday accuses the agency of falling short of that promise.

The Boston Globe’s Andrea Estes reports on the audit:

The Department of Children and Families failed to report rapes, abuse, and other alleged crimes committed against children in their care, according to a scathing audit to be released Thursday by state Auditor Suzanne Bump. And in many other cases, social workers didn’t know that children they were monitoring had been badly hurt.

The audit, which covered 2014 and 2015, enumerated 19 serious incidents — including rape, sexual abuse by a DCF-contracted employee, and multiple assaults — that harmed children in foster care and in other state-supervised settings, but which were not reported to prosecutors. Several district attorneys told the auditor’s staff they would have performed detailed investigations had DCF alerted them.

Far more frequently, the audit found that social workers had no idea that children in their care had suffered serious injuries, including drug overdoses, poisoning, burns, broken bones, and attempted suicide. By reviewing children’s medical records, auditors discovered 260 serious injuries that were not noted in DCF records, indicating that the agency was unaware of them.

The agency that held Justina for over a year, against her and her family’s will, repeatedly fails those they are entrusted to protect. In Justina’s case, MMI exposed how DCF did not provide an education while Justina was in the agency’s custody. MMI also showed how Justina devised a way to sneak notes — outlining the abuse she claims happened daily — to her parents in homemade cards. 

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