The Massachusetts child-protection agency announced Friday that it is actively pursuing plans to return an ailing teenager at the center of a yearlong custody battle to her home state of Connecticut, in an apparent move to extricate itself from a drama in which the parents allege they have been unfairly stripped of their rights to make medical choices for their daughter.
The Department of Children and Families said it is also endorsing a plan to have Justina Pelletier’s medical care transferred back to Tufts Medical Center, which has long been a demand of her parents. Their attempt to move their daughter’s care a year ago from Boston Children’s Hospital to Tufts, where she had been treated previously, is what set in motion the events that led them to lose custody of the teenager.
As recently as Monday, state officials sought to have Pelletier, 15, moved to foster care in Merrimac and her medical care moved to UMass Memorial Medical Center in Worcester. “Our primary goal has always been the health and well-being of Justina,” said spokesman Alec Loftus, in the children’s agency’s first public comments on a case drawing national attention. “We want the parents to be able to work with the providers and courts to ultimately move Justina back to her home state of Connecticut.”
The agency has also backed off its push to have the girl’s father held in contempt for speaking publicly about the case in violation of a juvenile judge’s gag order, Loftus said — in remarks that themselves may have defied the gag order. Loftus said it was dropping the gag-order complaint against Lou Pelletier.
But the potentially promising overture may yet lead nowhere — as has happened repeatedly. Justina’s father, reached by phone Friday morning on his way to a weekly visit with Justina at a Department of Children and Families office in Roxbury, initially reacted positively, though guardedly, when a Globe reporter told him about the agency’s announcement. Lou Pelletier said it was “a step in the right direction” but he needed to see concrete results.
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