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“IT FEELS SO GOOD TO BE HOME”
by Sharon Rondeau
(Jun. 18, 2014) — Justina Pelletier, the 16-year-old Connecticut girl who was placed in the custody of the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families (DCF) 16 months ago, is now home with her parents in West Hartford, CT, this writer’s home town.
Family spokesman and supporter Rev. Patrick Mahoney tweeted photos of extensive media coverage of Justina’s return, and a photo of Justina eating a hot fudge sundae appeared on the front page of The Boston Globe on Wednesday.
Justina was diagnosed by Tufts Medical Center in 2011 with mitochondrial disease and had undergone successful treatment, having become a competitive figure-skater. In February of last year, she contracted the flu and was told to seek treatment at Boston Children’s Hospital, where her specialist had begun to work.
Instead of seeing her specialist, two doctors at BCH saw Justina and determined that she actually was suffering from somatoform disorder, not mitochondrial disease. When her parents disagreed with the new diagnosis and attempted to discharge her to return to Tufts for her care, the doctors called DCF and reported Linda and Lou Pelletier for “medical child abuse.”
“I don’t want anyone else to be put through the same thing I got put through,” Justina told Berman. She described staff at BCH as “really mean to me” after they barred her parents from seeing her.
She described her stay in “Bader 5,” the “Psych Unit” of Boston Children’s Hospital as isolating, with staff laughing at her when she was unable to follow directions. “It was very tough…I don’t want it to happen to anyone else,” Justina said. “They didn’t believe me. They didn’t help me at all. They would leave me in the hallway one time for a whole week and I was just sitting in the hallway, staring at it…” she said. “They wouldn’t let me talk to any other kids there.”
Justina also related that she came down with pneumonia while in the care of BCH and that she “had no support there.”
Judge Joseph Johnston had ruled in March that Justina would remain in the custody of the state of Massachusetts until she turned 18. However, after extensive media coverage, a rally at the Massachusetts Statehouse and the return of her medical care to Tufts, Johnston ruled on Tuesday that Justina could return home.
Lou Pelletier said that his daughter was used as a medical “guinea pig.” Johnston had placed a gag order on all of the parties involved in the custody battle once court hearings began last year which Lou broke in order to tell the world that he believed his daughter was dying at the hands of Massachusetts DCF.
He now says that “It was the court of public opinion that saved my daughter’s life.”
Justina related that “it got better” after she was moved from a residential home in Framingham, MA to one in Thompson, CT about a month ago. She also described an incident about which Lou had called Massachusetts State Police in which she had been taking a shower and a personal care assistant (PCA) allegedly accused her of having thrown something at her and then harassed her.
Justina said that “it will be easier for her to get better” now that she is home with her family. “I will be walking someday and be running, skating, and all this other stuff,” she told Berman. She said that her former medicines have been restored to her and that they are “kicking in.”
There have been other cases similar to Justina’s in which children of apparently fit parents have been taken and not returned. For nearly two years, The Post & Email followed the story of the Henderson family, in which six children were taken and separated into three foster homes, one of which did not speak English, and eventually initiated into adoption proceedings. Two children born subsequent to the removal of their six elder brothers and sisters were also taken at the age of just a few weeks from their mother, who was nursing them. At this time, Jeffrey and Erica Henderson have separated, with Jeffrey having moved out of the area to attend law school.
“They’ve destroyed my whole family,” Jeffrey Henderson told The Post & Email last December.
In a case in Bakersfield, CA in early 2013, the mother of two adopted children removed from her care unnecessarily received $1.4 million from the county in compensation for her ordeal.
In Illinois, an 11-year class-action suit alleging coercive techniques used by the state’s Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) concluded that “that DCFS erred in 74.6% of the indicated reports that were challenged (and overturned) on appeal.”
Other examples of children seized from their parents or adoptive parents without cause are legion.
One woman’s three children were removed from her home because she told a social worker that she was depressed after her husband died. All suffered psychological trauma as a result, and all three children ran away from their foster homes.
The “pandemic” of children removed from capable parents is not limited to the United States.