BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS, June 17, 2014 – Communities Digital News has from the family that Jennifer Pelletier had planned to spend the next three days in front of the Suffolk County Juvenile Court with hundreds of child welfare advocates protesting for her younger sister’s release from State care, but now it appears that those efforts may not be needed.
After over 18 brutal months in the custody of the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families, Jennifer says the Commonwealth of Massachusetts will return Justina to the family tomorrow, Wednesday, June 18, 2014.
“I find that the parties have shown by credible evidence that circumstances have changed since the adjudication on Dec. 20, 2013, that Justina is a child in need of care and protection pursuant to G.L. c. 199, 24-26.,” Judge Joseph Johnston wrote in the ruling. “Effective Wednesday, June 18, 2014, this care and protection petition is dismissed and custody of Justina is returned to her parents, Lou and Linda Pelletier.”
“It’s a wonderful feeling to see that this little girl will be able to go home,” said Philip Moran, the lawyer for the girls’ parents, Linda and Lou Pelletier of West Hartford, Conn.
“She will be home with her parents, sisters, pets and friends. Hopefully well see major progress because this is what she really needs.”
Since February 2013, the Pelletier family has been embroiled in a bitter custody battle with the Commonwealth ever since DCF took custody of Justina at the recommendation of Boston Children’s Hospital following a visit to BCH’s ER for flu-like symptoms.
Justina is a lifelong Connecticut resident who was previously diagnosed and treated by Tufts Medical Center experts with Mitochondrial Disease, however, the child’s health rapidly declined over the next year while the State denied Justina adequate treatment for her condition and sent her to live in BCH’s locked psychiatric ward. While in DCF custody, Justina went from being a competitive figure skater to a wheelchair bound ward of the State who has lost much of her hair.
DCF also severed Justina’s contact with her Connecticut community and restricted Justina’s time with her family to a single hour per week.
In May 2013, Massachusetts Health and Human Services Secretary John Polanowicz announced imminent plans to reunify Justina with her family in Connecticut, then relocated Justina to the JRI Susan Wayne Center for Excellence in Thompson, Connecticut.
According to Jennifer Pelletier, she received a call from her younger sister Justina today reporting that lawyers for the family and the State have worked out a deal to send Justina home in her parent’s custody permanently as early as tomorrow. Jennifer says that although nothing is set in stone yet, she has been in contact with Justina’s advocates, who are hopeful that there will be a deal inked reuniting the family with her sister in the next few days.
“Today’s decision is a result of our collaboration with the Pelletier family around the reunification plan, and the strong work of staff at the Susan Wayne Center for Excellence in helping Justina along her road to recovery. The Court’s ruling reflects a thorough review of this complex case, and we are very pleased with the result.”
— John Polanowicz, Massachusetts Secretary of Health and Human Services
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