Yesterday, after 15 months in DCF custody, Justina Pelletier was transferred from Wayside in Massachusetts to the Susan Wayne Center for Excellence in Connecticut per the reunification plan developed by Massachusetts HHS Secretary Polanowicz. The plan was received with some skepticism and a very reasonable request by the family for clarification. Justina was moved to the new facility, still a hour and fifteen minute drive from the Pelletier home, amid serious concern from the family because they yet again had no say in where their child was being placed. The fact that Justina was not allowed to spend Mother’s Day with her mom did not help the general attitude of the family and supporters about the impending transfer.
However, as the day of the move progressed, we heard that the family was going to be allowed to be at the facility to greet Justina as she arrived. Which seemed like a good thing. Then, we heard that the Pelletiers were very positive after meeting with the center’s head. Which seemed almost too good to be true. Lou said there is a light at the end of the tunnel, which is really the most positive I have heard so far from him. Later, I heard him say they went into this situation skeptical but they were impressed by what they saw and heard. (I don’t think Lou is easily impressed these days, which makes it all the more meaningful that he was!)
Perhaps even better, we also learned that the Pelletiers will be able to have not only more frequent visits (as in, daily visits) with Justina, but unsupervised visitation. What a change from the normal one hour per week, highly supervised visits they have been permitted for most of the past 15 months. Truly, that shift is an answer to prayer. As far as I know, the Pelletiers were never allowed to visit Justina at Wayside. I don’t believe they were ever in the building (although I could be wrong about that), so the fact that they are able to visit Justina at the facility is a huge step in the right direction. The family feels that they now have an ally who wants to help them get Justina home. I think what has happened is they are now being treated like parents rather than the enemy. What a novel idea! Too bad Massachusetts DCF didn’t think of that tactic sooner.
The obvious question is raised by this sudden reversal of fortune is…Why?
Why was Justina not allowed to see her mom on Mother’s Day, but 24 hours later, will be able to see her every day? Why, if these parents are so awful and abusive that their daughter had to be removed from their custody for her own safety, are they now, after all this time in which they had to be closely supervised during their brief visits, suddenly allowed to have unsupervised visitation? Why, if the mito expert, Dr. Korson, was so wrong in diagnosing mito to the point of ordering unnecessary treatments, has Justina’s medical care been returned to him and Tufts? Why did Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick bring in the dept of HHS to resolve the case after months of claiming his hands were tied by the court ruling?
So many questions but I think the answer is simple… Massachusetts is desperately wanting to get rid of this case. Desperately. Preferably with a face saving solution (like a transfer to a facility in Connecticut where everything the Pelletiers wanted and were denied in MA is allowed) while still hiding behind the court system and attempting to salvage the ruins of DCF.
While this is a good step forward, much remains to be seen. DCF retains custody of Justina until at least June 20th or so, when they return to Judge Johnston’s courtroom and appeal the custody decision. My thought is that the reunification plan was vague so that it would be easy for the family to meet the requirements and allow Massachusetts to (gracefully) rid itself of the Pelletiers. Theoretically, based on the general positivity of the family and the statements made by the facility and the HHS Secretary, Justina will be integrating back into her community, which could mean that she could be making visits home fairly soon, even before the court date. It also means that Justina could go home, for real, soon after the court date.
Time will tell. At the moment, the move back to Connecticut seems to be a positive one. Today, we are just happy that Justina seems to be in a better place than she has been in and that her family is optimistic about the transfer. Hopefully this change of scenery and the accompanying change of heart indicates real movement towards getting Justina home. The future holds lawsuits and holding people accountable and changing laws. Today, though, we are just enjoying what seems to be Justina being one step closer to home. We will not be content until she is home and the system is changed, but we are thrilled to finally have some good news…