The Connecticut family fighting for their teenage daughter to return home after a dispute over a diagnosis, which led to accusations of medical child abuse and custody being taken away, has long called upon Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick to step in.
Rev. Patrick Mahoney, the spokesman representing Justina Pelletier's family, confronted Patrick Thursday in Lowell, Massachusetts, on the issue face to face.
Holding a sign about the 15-year-old, Rev. Patrick Mahoney questioned the governor about Justina, who for more than a year has been in the custody of the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families after doctors at Boston Children's Hospital said she had psychiatric disorder and not mitochondrial disease, which her parents had been treating her for at the direction of another doctor.
"Don't say you have a detailed report of neglect and not make that public, sir," said Mahoney, who has supported Linda and Lou Pelletier, Justina's parents, since earlier this year. "That's outrageous."
Patrick explained that it's the law such a document remain confidential, to which Mahoney presented further issues.
"You don't have a reunification plan. She cannot walk. She's not being educated. She wasn't allowed to go to church, sir," Mahoney pressed.
"You need to release her now and we're willing to work. Let's see the reunification plan, let's put it together and let's get her home," Mahoney continued.
"We need to get her home. And don't say there's a detailed report of neglect in the home and then not make that available," he said.
"But that's not a public matter," Patrick countered.
"Reverend, you should know, I think she should be a home in Connecticut," the governor continued. "We've appeared in court in order to have her sent home in Connecticut. Whether you believe it or not, the court has jurisdiction in this matter, not us."
Mahoney brought up the issue of children reportedly missing within the DCF system. Earlier this year, the Boston Globe reported that 134 children were listed as "on the run" as of Feb. 2.
Then, even more recently, a body was found on the side of a highway in Sterling, Massachusetts, and was identified as 5-year-old Jeremiah Oliver, who has been missing since September. Oliver's family was monitored for two years by the DCF after reports of abuse, but it wasn't noted that he went missing by the agency until his older sister pipped up, the Globe reported.
Mahoney pressed the governor to exercise his power in Justina's case.
"I know what I can do," Patrick said. "I've been doing a lot, probably more than you know and more than the public is entitled to know under the law. … We have a court system, as you know, but the court has made findings, it has made decisions.
"We have presented a case to the court about having her at least home in Connecticut, if not with her family."
Patrick said that he'd be happy to talk with Mahoney further at a later date and without a camera present, but he emphasized that the "involvement is with the family and not with interested advocates."
Watch the full encounter:
In a news release, Mahoney pointed to a recent op-ed by Michael Graham in the Boston Herald, which called out a letter from Patrick to Rep. Marc Lombardo, who has been petitioning for the release of Justina, in which Patrick wrote that the judge presiding over the family's case made his decisions "based on a detailed record of the history of neglect in the home."
But Graham asks more about this "detailed record."
"As the governor mentioned, Justina was seized back in early 2013 during her initial visit to Children’s," Graham wrote. "That hospital and DCF knew literally nothing about the Pelletier family of Connecticut at that time — certainly not about life 'in the home.'
"Juvenile Court Judge Joseph Johnston’s March 2014 ruling is clear on that point: “At the outset, [Massachusetts] DCF filed a report of neglect of Justina by her parents with the [Connecticut] DCF,” he wrote. That “outset” was four days after her arrival at Children’s. How could anyone at DCF have any knowledge of “neglect in the home,'" he continued.
In previous interviews, Lou Pelletier told TheBlaze Massachusetts DCF has never visited their home. Lou Pelletier has said that Connecticut DCF has done an investigation and found nothing wrong.
Mahoney told TheBlaze that if such a document exists and if it were truly confidential, then the governor should not have mentioned it at all.
"The governor offers no evidence to support that petition. It's a baseless charge without any evidence," Mahoney said.
Justina Pelletier was diagnosed with mitochondrial disease by a doctor at Tufts Medical Center a few years ago. In 2013, her family took her to Boston Children's to see a specialist after she had complications with the flu. Shortly after being admitted and seen by a different doctor than originally intended, her family said this physician disagreed with the mitochondrial disease diagnosis and said she had somatoform disorder instead.
A few days later when the Pelletiers tried to discharge Justina to take her to Tufts, they were met with a form that alleged medical child abuse and DCF was awarded emergency custody. In the court's latest decision, DCF was awarded permanent custody, but this doesn't limit the family's ability to appeal to continue to get custody back.
"We're looking at parenting skills, for lack of a better term," Mahoney said, going on to describe the Pelletier's home environment, where they have three older daughters who have jobs or go to college and are "productive citizens.
"And then you have DCF, which can't account for 134 children. You have this poor tragic story of young boy. You hear all other horror stories where governor himself called for investigation and then you look at Justina herself and see where she was 14 months ago and where she is under care of DCF. You have to [ask] who is in a better position to take care of her. The answer is simple: the parents," Mahoney told TheBlaze.