Juvenile judge ordered June 17 Massachusetts child protection authorities return a teenage girl held by the state to her Connecticut home after being held hostage for 16 months.
Liberty Counsel, an international family rights legal assistance organization, who negotiated the release of 16-year old Justina Pelletier on behalf of her parents, said in a statement that the Pelletier family is ecstatic the judge made a 180-degree turn. The action against them is now closed.
“We have been working long days, nights, and weekends with all parties to get Justina home,” said Mathew D. “Mat” Staver, founder and chairman of LC. “The result is a miracle!”
Lou and Linda Pelletier had been involved in a custody battle with Mass Department of Children and Families who, until the Wednesday after the judge’s decision, had legal custody of their daughter. In February 2013 Justina was forcibly detained by Boston Children’s Hospital protection unit after they alleged medical abuse.
The parents maintained all along that when they refused to sign a medical plan that was in direct conflict with Justina’s medical plan prescribed by Dr. Mark S. Korsen, chief of Metabolic Service at Tufts Medical Center, false allegations were filed. Liberty Counsel said BCS unlawfully took custody of Justina and locked her up in its psych ward.
Lou Pelletier spoke to Guns& Patriots just days before the judge’s reversal to describe his youngest daughter’s deteriorating health conditions under the control of Mass DCF.
“They have done such physical damage to a young girl,” he said. “Justina went from walking to being paralyzed in her limbs.”
He said nobody is being held accountable for the bruises, scratches, digression of speech, neglect and mistreatment of Justina. “I filed a gazillion reports with DCF.”
None of his complaints were addressed, yet DCF will accept the word of any doctor, any psychologist or any clinician who files a report for child abuse, said the father of four daughters. “The way the whole system works is criminal.”
Eventually laws need to be changed, said Pelletier. “Ultimately there needs to be a Justina law.” When a physician erroneously changes a diagnosis from medical to psychological, that doctor should lose their license, he continued. “Because if they are wrong, the damage that could be done is fatal.”
Founder and Chairman of National Parents Organization, the largest organization in the nation that is calling for reform of the family courts, Dr. Ned Holstein said being a child in the custody of the state is no picnic. “The state must always err on parenting rights because the alternatives that the state has to offer are so miserable to the child and so tyrannical on the parents.”
Holstein, who started Mass-based Fathers & Families in 1994, said there is no arm of government that intrudes more deeply into private life than the family courts and in this case juvenile court. “In a complex case, where nationally recognized physicians are in disagreement, it is a huge over step of state power.”
There are serious problems with agencies of the state that surround the family courts such as protective services and child enforcement services in which NPO are working to correct, he said.
“In a case like this, the state really has no ability whatsoever to be the arbiter of complex medical disagreements among highly qualified doctors. The Tufts doctors are considered national experts, and yet the children’s hospital decided they were so sure of their own approach to the case that they would actually snatch the child away from the parents because they know so much more than the Tufts doctors do.”
Child protective agencies tend to be staffed by inexperienced people who take two psychology courses and all of a sudden become experts in the field, he said. “They pretend to perceive what nobody else can perceive. In some cases they are intoxicated by power.”
Holstein, who is a nationally recognized expert on the effects of the environment on human health, said parental love fills a biological need that helps children survive. “Everybody is forgetting that neither the social workers, nor the judges, nor the psychologists are going to be there for that child that is calling for help in the middle of the night. The only people on the face of the earth who generally will be there for that child is the parents.”
Parents must be extremists in defense of their children, because he said it is that extremism that precipitated Justina’s return home. “The fact that the forcible parents antagonized the doctors at an interpersonal level played into what happened very clearly.”
The state resisted releasing Justina but the pressure was too great and now the judge’s view is that the parents have improved and are cured, he said. “But that’s just a cover – these parents were successful in exciting a lot of public attention to what was being done to their daughter.”
There is a plethora of court decisions that agree that unless parents are proven to be unfit, they cannot deprive them of the right to care, companionship and custody of their children, he said.
“There is a whole series of U.S. Supreme Court decisions going back 90 years with multiple state level Supreme Courts that have determined that parenting rights is a fundamental, constitutionally-protected liberty interest that cannot be denied.”