The father of Justina Pelletier, the Connecticut teenager at the center of a controversy over parental rights, renewed his family’s call Thursday to have her returned home, free from oversight by child protection officials in that state and Massachusetts.
“We want [the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families] to be out of our lives,” said Lou Pelletier, speaking publicly for the first time since a gag order was lifted in the case. “I don’t care whether it’s Connecticut, Massachusetts. . . . Make them go away. They’ve done nothing but harm.”
The Rev. Patrick Mahoney of the Christian Defense Coalition, one of several conservative groups backing the Pelletiers, reiterated at the State House briefing that the family is weighing legal action against DCF, which currently has custody of Justina, on the grounds that it violated federal law.
“We’re looking into all federal claims,” Mahoney said.
The case drew national attention last year when Boston Children’s Hospital lodged a “medical child abuse” complaint against Justina’s parents amid a dispute over her medical diagnosis, leading the state to take custody and keep her hospitalized for almost a year.
Officials at DCF have stressed that a state judge, not the agency, made the custody decision after court hearings and that Connecticut officials supported neglect allegations. They also say they are working with Justina’s parents and other parties to move her back to her home state and find appropriate services.
“Our goal has always been to work with Justina and her parents,” Alec Loftus, a DCF spokesman, said Thursday.
A plan to move Justina to a New Britain location fell through last summer, after her father threatened to sue the facility if it took his daughter.
Earlier this week, a juvenile court judge approved a plan to return Justina’s medical care to a Tufts Medical Center-led team, the family’s preferred provider.
The next court date is slated for March 17. A judge could ultimately decide to place the teen in her West Hartford home, a foster home, or a residential treatment facility.