Family approaches 2nd Easter with ailing daughter Bay State Democrats’ hostage

Family approaches 2nd Easter with ailing daughter Bay State Democrats' hostage
(Courtesy of Liberty Counsel)

Connecticut parents continue to fight Massachusetts Democrats for custody of their teen daughter, who they said was removed unlawfully and whose health is deteriorating under the state’s care.

“My daughter’s condition is getting worse and worse,” said Lou Pelletier, father to Justina Pelletier, the 15-year old competitive skater, who was removed from her parent’s care in February 2013 by Massachusetts Department of Children & Families.

Fourteen months ago, Justina was living a normal life; ice skating, enjoying friends and family and attending private school, said the husband and father of four. “Now she’s paralyzed off her medicine, her legs are swollen and her hair-line is receding.”

Boston Children’s Hospital, a mandated-reporter, filed a “51A report,” which are allegations of detailed neglect or abuse with MA-DCF against Lou and Linda Pelletier – Justina’s parents – alleging the Pelletiers were unfit to care for Justina because they had disagreed with the hospital’s medical diagnosis and course of treatment.

“Children’s ultimately diagnosed her with Somatoform Disorder, a psychological condition, rather than Mitochondrial Disease. Her parents disagreed and intended to discharge her, against doctor’s orders/suggestions and a 51A report was filed by the Hospital,” said MA-DCF in a public statement.

The Pelletiers said they maintain that a medical-diagnosis disagreement between Justina’s former- treating physician at Tufts Medical Center, Dr. Mark S. Korson, who is Chief of Metabolic Service, and on-staff researcher and psychologist Dr. Simona Bujoreau at BCH does not amount to child neglect or abuse and Justina should not have been taken in the first place.

MA-DCF are discussing abuse and medical mistreatment over a disagreement, said Rev. Patrick Mahoney, who is a Presbyterian minister and spokesperson for the family. “It is tragic and troubling to separate Justina from her family and friends for this.”

Justina was being treated for mitochondrial disease successfully for two years under the auspices of Tuft Medical Center, said Mathew D. “Mat” Staver, founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel who is representing the Pelletiers. “She was on a vitamin regime which Boston Children’s Hospital and DCF stopped.”

In a recent published report, researchers in Finland and Switzerland have shown that vitamin treatment can slow down the progression of mitochondrial disease.

All along the Pelletiers wanted Justina to continue her medical treatment at Tufts, but it was not until recently that MA-DCF permitted Korson to see Justina once so far and it may not be enough to halt Justina’s deteriorating health, said Mahoney.

“There is much concern that Korson wants to see Justina on a weekly basis, or at least once every two weeks, but MA-DCF are suggesting one visit every six to nine weeks,” he said.

The family is unaware whether Justina has resumed vitamin treatment for mitochondrial disease since the parents cannot get first-hand information about their daughter from her doctors, he said. “The Pelletiers receive no medical information and Korson cannot give them any information about Justina.”

In addition, Mahoney said Justina, who was on an Individual Education Plan in Connecticut for a learning disability, has not been given the same education benefits in Massachusetts and although Justina has indicated she would consent to religious instruction, MA-DCF has provided her with little, if any, religious freedom. “Not only is she being separated from her family and friends and the lifestyle she knew, we have a real crushing of her civil rights regarding her religious freedoms and her educational needs.”

These are serious federal violations, he said. “We are meeting with federal legislators to address the broader questions of what freedom of decisions parents and children have of religious rights and education when the government comes-in an usurps their rights.”

MA-DCF claims that Connecticut officials have supported allegations of neglect against the family prior to DCF involvement.  

Massachusetts Gov. Deval L. Patrick also made public statements to assert that there is a detailed history of abuse surrounding the Pelletiers.

“Justina has been in DCF custody since February 2013, when a judge ruled that her parents were unfit to care for her… based on a detailed record of a history of neglect in the home,” said Patrick in a letter to state legislators on April 1.

Mahoney, who questioned the veracity of this statement, said it is revisionist history. “Connecticut DCF has never been to the Pelletier home.  If there were cases of neglect before 2013 in a repeated pattern, why didn’t CT-DCF move on this before?”

When DCF took custody of Justina it was based on alleged medical abuse, he said.

CT-DCF Commissioner Joette Katz said in a statement that contrary to the court’s March order, DCF has been sufficiently involved in discussions over the transfer of Justina into the Connecticut system, but permission from the Pelletier family to conduct an evaluation was not received until March 10.

“These evaluations are the first step the agency must take to determine what is required to adequately care for and protect the safety of a child,” the statement said.

There is no indication or report made public from CT-DCF that accuses or confirms allegations of abuse and neglect on behalf of the parents, said Mahoney who is a Presbyterian minister.

The Pelletier’s have proposed to both state agencies conditional custody to the parents if Justina is transferred into the Connecticut system, he said. 

“Our position is clear, if Justina is brought back to Connecticut she needs to be brought back to the Pelletier home for a time period DCF could determine in which they could supervise, provide weekly visits or twice a week visits in the home.”

Despite claims made by MA-DCF to the contrary, currently there is no plan in place to get Justina home to her parents, said Mahoney. 

“Our feeling is the best way to resolve this is to return Justina home into the loving arms of her family, and DCF could have an advisory role and make visits to the home to determine that all her needs are being met.” 

To date these proposals have been rejected by state officials, he said. 

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