The Connecticut teen who has been in state custody for more than a year after her parents were accused of medical child abuse after disputing a diagnosis has apparently penned a note, giving a look into how she says she's being treated.
"They hurt me all the time push me all the time and more," the purported note from Justina Pelletier says. It also says "[they] do not let me sleep vary [sic] much.
Keith Mason, president of Personhood USA, a group helping lead the Free Justina Coalition, told TheBlaze that Justina gave the note to her parents a few weeks ago.
"There has been some hesitation to release it because of how tyrannical the DCF has been," Mason said.
Mason called the note "troubling" and said it's "part of the reason we’ve put a lot of urgency on this campaign." He said he thinks Justina is referring to her treatment by DCF employees and staff at Wayside Youth and Family Network, a facility in Framingham, Mass., where Justina has been living for the last few months as a ward of the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families.
Lou Pelletier, Justina's father, told TheBlaze that Justina snuck her parents the note.
“She’s very intelligent and figures out ways to sneak us stuff,” he said. “She’s been risking life and limb to get any bit of information to us.”
In-person visits with Justina, which happen once a week on Fridays, are supervised by DCF staff, he said.
Pressed for more details about the note, including why some of the content was cut off at the top in the image provided, Lou Pelletier became animated, frequently citing his frustration with the case and said published news reports seem to have resulted in DCF crackdowns on allowing Justina to communicate with them.
“She’s being allowed to be tortured in this country, I’ll leave it at that,” he said.
Personhood USA, which originally released the image in its press release, did not immediately return a request from TheBlaze for a complete image of the note.
The case surrounding 15-year-old Justina began last year when her parents, Lou and Linda Pelletier, brought her to Boston Children's Hospital to see a gastrointestinal specialist while she was suffering from the flu. Justina had previously been diagnosed with mitochondrial disease by a doctor at Tufts Medical Center. She had been receiving treatment for the disorder, which manifests itself in various ways, impacting the function of the energy producing organelles of cells.
When admitted to Boston Children's, her parents say, another doctor disagreed with the mitochondrial disease diagnosis, saying she had somatoform, a psychiatric disorder, instead. When the Pelletiers disagreed with physicians' proposed plan to remove Justina from her treatments for mitochondrial disorder in favor of psychiatric treatments, they tried to discharge her to take her to Tufts. At this time, they served with a 51A, a report of alleged physical or emotional abuse.
On Feb. 14, 2013, the state stepped in and took emergency custody of Justina. Over the course of the next year, the Pelletiers appeared in juvenile court several times, fighting to get their daughter back. Most movement in the case occurred in the first months of 2014, when a judge ordered Justina to be moved from Boston Children's. The most recent decision by Judge Joseph Johnson in late March to allow DCF to retain custody of Justina, making the family's next opportunity to appeal in juvenile court May 20.
"DCF isn’t listening, the judge sure isn't listening … where we have left to go?" Mason said, explaining why the family ultimately decided to allow the release of Justina's note.
"This shocking note reveals for the first time, in Justina's own words, how she is being abused by Massachusetts DCF. The Pelletiers are devastated to see how their daughter is being mistreated while under the custody of the State of Massachusetts," Rev. Patrick Mahoney, the Pelletier's spokesperson, said in a statement.
"Sadly, Justina's own words paint a picture of mistreatment by DCF that we can see for ourselves," he continued. "Fourteen months ago, when she was removed from her home, she was taking part in ice-skating competitions and living an active life. Under the care of DCF, she is in now a wheelchair and can barely walk. She has not been allowed to attend church, and has not been given her individualized education program which is required by federal law."
On Monday, the family's lawyers filed an appeal to the state's Supreme Judicial Court. The petition requests for custody of Justina to be removed from DCF and restored to her parents.
“This case comes down to the simple fact that new doctors at Boston Children’s Hospital, who had no experience with Justina, came up with a different diagnosis than her expert treating physicians at Tufts Medical Center,” Mat Staver, founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel, said in a statement. “The state cannot take children from their parents when the parents make reasonable choices for their medical care. This case is outrageous."
Mason also said the Free Justina Coalition is focusing its efforts toward reaching out to Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick to get involved in the situation.
DCF did not immediately respond to TheBlaze's request for comment regarding the note.
This story has been updated to include comments from Lou Pelletier.