A Massachusetts judge ordered the 16-year-old Connecticut girl, who was taken from her family by child welfare advocates more than a year ago, to be returned to her mother and father effective Wednesday. The ruling caps a long-running medical custody dispute that began when two highly-respected Boston hospitals clashed over the girl’s diagnosis. The case sparked national outrage, and led Lou and Linda Pelletier, of West Hartford, Conn., to wage a bitter legal battle.
“To hear the news is overwhelming,” Lou Pelletier told FoxNews.com moments after learning of the ruling. “Now we can certainly begin the healing process.”
“Now we can certainly begin the healing process.”
– Lou Pelletier, father of girl taken by state of Massachusetts
The case began when the girl’s parents disagreed with a psychiatric diagnosis given by Boston Children’s Hospital and said they wanted their daughter returned to her original physician at Tufts Medical Center, who had previously treated Justina for mitochondrial disease, a group of rare genetic disorders affecting cellular energy production. The Massachusetts Department of Children and Families moved in, claiming Justina was the victim of “medical child abuse.”
Mat Staver, of the Liberty Counsel, which battled the Bay State bureaucracy on behalf of the Pelletiers, said the ruling handed down by Massachusetts juvenile court Judge Joseph Johnston was well-deserved.
“We are thrilled that Justina will finally be returning home,” Staver said in a statement. “The family looks forward to putting this 16-month nightmare behind them. Justina and her family now begins the process of healing both physically, emotionally, and spiritually.”
In May, Justina was moved from Massachusetts to a facility in Thompson, Conn., allowing her parents to visit with their daughter, but doing little to dampen their determination to win her back for good. In a 45-second, videotaped plea, first posted on a Facebook support page last week, Justina is seen sitting in a chair and pleading plaintively with Johnston.
“All I really want is to be with my family and friends,” the girl says, her voice faltering at times. “You can do it. You’re the one that’s judging this. Please let me go home.”
The judge granted the girl’s wish, after the Massachusetts DCF filed a motion agreeing that the teenager should be returned to her family. Alec Loftus, a spokesman for Massachusetts Health and Human Services Secretary John Polanowicz, confirmed to FoxNews.com last week that the agency was no longer planning to fight the case.
The emotional toll on Justina and her family is one that cannot be measured, Staver said. She has missed out on two years of education, Staver said, and went from becoming a competitive figure skater to being confined in a wheelchair.
Lou Pelletier said he knows his daughter will need time and love from her family to overcome her ordeal.
“She’s coming home tomorrow,” he said. “I think she will want to get adjusted.
“Think of it like a prisoner of war who has been held captive for 16 months,” he continued. “There will be an adjustment period.”
FoxNews.com’s Cristina Corbin and Perry Chiaramonte contributed to this report.
After months of fighting this legal battle on behalf of the Pelletier family, we are thrilled that Justina is finally returning home.
Lou Pelletier said in a text message, “This battle has been finally won. The WAR will not be won until we stop this from happening to ALL CHILDREN!!”
The Pelletier family looks forward to putting this 16-month nightmare behind them. Justina and her family now begins the process of healing physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
In a ruling that is long overdue, Judge Joseph Johnston is sending Justina home from being a ward of the State of Massachusetts. In his decision, he wrote…
“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. 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.”
As you might imagine, the Pelletier family is overjoyed and is getting ready for a wonderful homecoming for Justina!
Last week, in a dramatic reversal, the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families (DCF) filed a motion with the courts agreeing with our petition to have Justina returned home to her family.
The motion for review of reconsideration and dismissal followed Liberty Counsel’s prior motion to return Justina home.
DCF’s concession completely undercut their argument and reasoning for performing a “parent-ectomy” and removing Justina from the care of the Pelletiers in the first place.
Justina has since received treatment from Tuft’s medical providers where she was receiving effective treatments before Boston Children’s Hospital intervened. This is what the Pelletiers fought for all along.
In the Judge’s ruling, he noted 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.”
The “changed circumstances” include Justina’s deteriorating health and emotional state while in the custody of the DCF, effectively proving that Boston Children’s Hospital and the DCF were wrong in ever removing Justina from the care of the Pelletiers and Tufts Medical Center.
Now, she’ll begin the long road to recovery.
Justina has now lost sixteen months of her life with her family. The Pelletiers have spent untold hours and an enormous amount of resources fighting “Goliath” to get their daughter back from the misguided actions of an out-of-control state agency.
LifeNews Note: Mat Staver is the Chairman of Liberty Counsel Action and Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel.