- The Washington Times - Friday, May 30, 2014

In a bitter, lengthy custody case pitting her parents against the state of Massachusetts, a conservative legal defense organization says it is taking legal steps Friday to reunite ailing teen Justina Pelletier with her family.

Mat Staver, founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel, said legal papers are being filed Friday in Boston Juvenile Court to ask that Justina, 16, be returned home. 

The Massachusetts Department of Children and Families (DCF), which has court-appointed custody of Justina, has indicated that “it will not object” to the motion, Mr. Staver said.

“We are pleased that Justina is close to returning home. We believe and pray that day will be soon,” he said.

A comment from the Massachusetts Health and Human Services, which oversees DCF, was not immediately available. The high-profile case has proven a public relations headache for the administration of Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick.

In recent weeks, Justina was moved to a facility in her home state of Connecticut, and her family has been able to see her regularly. She is again under the medical care of doctors with Tufts Medical Center.

Justina became the subject of a child welfare battle in February 2013, when she was brought to Boston Children’s Hospital to see a doctor.

She had been diagnosed with mitochondrial disease — a rare condition associated with abdominal pain, muscle weakness and other symptoms — and was under care of doctors at Tufts.

However, when she came to Boston Children’s Hospital, doctors there said she was suffering from a somatoform disorder, which is a psychological condition.

When the Pelletiers refused to comply with treatment for the newly diagnosed malady, Massachusetts child welfare workers took her into their care.

For 16 months, the family has been fighting in court and on social media for their daughter’s return, winning a lot of sympathy and support.

However, Boston Juvenile Court Judge Joseph F. Johnston, who heard all the details in the mostly closed case, gave custody of Justina to Massachusetts child welfare officials in March.

Since then, political leaders have gotten involved in the case. In May, Justina was moved to a facility in Connecticut near her home in West Hartford, Conn., and reunification efforts have been underway.


• Cheryl Wetzstein can be reached at cwetzstein@washingtontimes.com.

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