Justina Pelletier, the 15-year-old girl who has been at the center of a year-long custody battle between her parents and Massachusetts, will be moved to abehavioral care facility near her home in Connecticut, state officials said Monday.
The Department of Children and Families rejected the Pelletier's family's plan to reunite them with their daughter, saying it would transfer her to the Connecticut facility.
Pelletier's family met with Health and Human Services Secretary John Polanowicz, interim DCF Commissioner Erin Deveney and Assistant Secretary Kathleen Betts Monday to discuss the plan.
Pelletier is the subject of a custody case between her family and the state after being admitted to a Boston hospital to treat a rare illness and being taken into state care 15 months ago. A judge granted the state custody of Justina and her family has been fighting to regain custody.
Polanowicz described DCF’s proposed plan in a letter to the Republican leaders of the House and Senate dated Monday. The letter says Justina Pelletier will be moved next week to a therapeutic education provider in Thompson, Connecticut for comprehensive services closer to her home and family. The plan, Polanowicz writes, is similar to an earlier proposal put forward by Justina Pelletier's court-appointed attorney and discussed in meetings with the family. Polanowicz writes in the letter the ultimate goal is to return Justina home as soon as possible.
“As we have previously shared, DCF will support returning custody of Justina to her parents once they have engaged in the plan’s basic conditions,” the letter says. The four conditions for the family are listed as: visits with Justina at the Connecticut facility, action on a care plan from Tufts Medical Center, family therapy and meetings with DCF to review progress.
“We are confident that we have found the right pathway for Justina to return home as soon as possible so she can continue her strong recovery in Connecticut,” Polanowicz writes.
A spokesman for the family, Rev. Patrick Mahoney, told reporters at a press conference Monday afternoon that the family is willing to meet the criteria, but they want specific dates regarding her treatment and movement. When asked if the family is rejecting the plan, Justina’s mother Linda Pelletier answered “yes.”
Lou Pelletier, the girl’s father, does not want Justina to go to another behavioral facility, like ones where he says she’s been mistreated in the past.
“We’re not going to let her go back into harm’s way. She’s not going to a behavioral psychiatric facility again. She’s been tortured enough,” Lou Pelletier said.
Health and Human Services spokesman Alec Loftus told the News Service Polanowicz believes the reunification plan, including the transfer to the Connecticut facility, is the best way forward for the Pelletiers to regain legal custody of Justina. The family has previously argued for their daughter’s return with less state involvement.
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