Justina Pelletier, the teen at the center of a yearlong custody battle, will be transferred to a foster care facility in Massachussetts with the ultimate goal of returning to Connecticut, according to a Department of Children and Families spokesperson. Alex Loftus says that the goal is to ultimately work with officials at Tufts Medical Center – the parents’ first choice for care of the child – to ensure her safe return back to Connecticut.
Justina has been in a heated custody battle ever since a judge deemed her parents, Lou and Linda Pelletier, were deemed unfit to handle her complex physical and psychiatric needs. The parents say that their daughter has mitochondrial disorder, which is characterized by issues with the brain, the gut and the muscles. Physicians at Tufts were treating her for the disorder though they were still in the process of trying to determine if she had mitochondrial disorder in the first place.
She was brought to Boston’s Children’s Hospital with severe intestinal issues and when doctors there said they believed her intestinal issues were largely psychiatric in nature, Justina’s parents sought to have her discharged. The hospital then brought medical child abuse charges against the parents, saying they were pushing for the medical intervention and unnecessary medical treatments. This led to the protracted custody battle.
The Pelletiers have wanted Justina returned to her home state, and it seems with the decision today, they may be one step closer to having their daughter a little closer to home. She is to be transferred to a foster care facility in Merrimac, Massachussetts, and the news caused an emotional outburst in the Pelletiers. Lou could be heard screaming and Linda was hugging a family friend. Justina’s move to the foster care facility is not exactly what the family wanted, but Loftus says that the intent of the Department of Children and Families is that Justina returns to Connecticut.
The news that Justina would be going to a foster care facility in Massachussetts caused such distress in Linda Pelletier that she was taken under a paramedic’s care. Her parents have been fighting a battle with Children’s Hospital over her treatment, as the parents say that Justina requires medical care while Children’s Hospital says the teen needs psychiatric care.
The Pelletiers prefer that Justina be moved to Tufts Medical Center because they support the doctors’ view of their daughter’s condition. The parents contend that their daughter has declined since the move to Children’s Hospital in Boston, and now can only move around in a wheelchair.
Last summer, Justina could have been moved to Webster House in New Britain, Connecticut, but her father threatened to sue the facility if it took in his daughter. He toured the facility in September, but Webster House later told Lou Pelletier that they could not afford the risks involved in taking Justina, as that could put them directly in the center of a heated custody battle.
Loftus says that there has been a medical team identified at Tuft’s to take on the girl’s care, which is something that the parents have been fighting for. The timetable for Justina’s move to Connecticut has not been set, and all parties in the case are set to meet before Judge Joseph Johnson of Suffolk County March 17.
By Christina St-Jean