Teen in state child-welfare battle to be moved closer to home

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The custody battle for Justina Pelletier is being moved closer to her home, but it is far from over.

The 15-year-old, who Massachusetts took from her family to provide psychiatric care at Boston Children's Hospital, will be moved next week to a Connecticut facility so she can receive therapeutic services and be closer to her home.

The reunification plan crafted by the Pelletiers and state officials is a major turning point in family’s public battle to regain custody of their 15-year-old teen from Massachusetts’ child welfare agency.

Parents Lou and Linda Pelletier, protested that news of their daughter’s moving was released to the public at the same time as to them, and that it was still not want they want — which is for Justina to be released into their custody by her 16th birthday on May 24.

The announcement that Justina was being transferred to the JRI Susan Wayne Center for Excellence in Thompson, Conn., was “another slap in the face, another kick in the stomach,” Mr. Pelletier said Monday in a press conference.

Attorney Mat Staver, founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel, said Monday that the reunification plan was “a baby step in the right direction,” but court actions on behalf of the parents would continue.

Already, there have been troubling disclosures in the new plan, said Mr. Staver. A key doctor at Tufts Medical Center has requested to see Justina “every two weeks,” but has been told he may see her “every two months,” he said.

For several years, Justina was treated by doctors at Tufts Medical Center for mitochondrial disease, a rare condition associated with abdominal pain, muscle weakness and other symptoms. But when Justina fell ill in February 2013, she was brought to BCH to see a doctor she had seen at Tufts.

BCH doctors who saw Justina instead diagnosed her with an entirely different condition — somatoform disorder, a psychological condition.

Justina was taken into state care — over her parents’ protests — to ensure she received care for the newly diagnosed condition.

The Pelletiers and their many outraged allies say Justina has deteriorated under state care; they detail their arguments at stopdcfnow.org at Liberty Counsel’s website.

Boston Juvenile Court Judge Joseph F. Johnston held a comprehensive hearing on Justina’s case, and on March 25, awarded the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families (DCF) permanent custody of Justina.

In a letter released Monday, John W. Polanowicz, secretary of the Massachusetts Health and Human Services, told Massachusetts State Rep. Brad Jones that Justina will be moved, as per a reunification plan aimed at returning the teen to her family home in West Hartford, Conn.

Under the plan, the Pelletiers must attend visits with Justina at the new facility, follow through with a care plan developed by her doctors at Tufts Medical Center, participate in family therapy and meet with officials at the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families (DCF).

DCF continues to retain custody of Justina, by court order, the letter said.

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About the Author
Cheryl Wetzstein

Cheryl Wetzstein

Cheryl Wetzstein covers family and social issues as a national reporter for The Washington Times. She has been a reporter for three decades, working in New York City and Washington, D.C. Since joining The Washington Times in 1985, she has been a features writer, environmental and consumer affairs reporter, and assistant business editor.

Beginning in 1994, Mrs. Wetzstein worked exclusively ...

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