“We’re so grateful that this day has finally come.”
That was the reaction of Linda Pelletier, the mother of 15-year-old Justina Pelletier who is returning to her West Hartford home Wednesday, nearly 16 months after the state of Massachusetts forced her hospitalization there, isolating her from her family.
During a press conference outside the Thompson treatment
center where Justina has been staying for the last few weeks, Linda Pelletier
said the family’s immediate focus is rebuilding Justina’s strength. “She has no
muscle in her now. She is in a wheelchair,” she said of the teen who used to
ice skate with her older sister Jennifer and play with her dog Rocky.
Justina’s return home is the culmination of a ruling issued June 17 by Massachusetts Judge Joseph Johnson ordering the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families to release the teen to her parents.
The teen has been in the focus of a national
debate on parental rights since the Massachusetts DCF took custody of her more than a year ago, despite pleas from her family, thousands of
supporters, a social media campaign and support from Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick.
The DCF took custody of her in February 2013 after her family disagreed with a diagnosis and treatment by doctors at Boston Children's Hospital.
“Today is vindication day” for the Pelletiers, said the Rev. Patrick Mahoney of the Christian Defense Coalition, who has been an advisor to the family for the last five months. “She is being released on the terms the Pelletiers have been asking for. It took the court 15 months to decide. They are utterly vindicated today … there are no conditions.”
“We’re not here to bash DCF of Massachusetts. It’s the parents and family who know what’s best for their children, not the state,” Mahoney added. He said, that while the family’s main focus is Justina’s health, their second focus will be “to make sure this injustice never happens to another family in America again. They will get Justina well and you will see the Pelletiers be proactive that this injustice never happens again.”
Linda Pelletier thanked the staff of JRI Susan Wayne Center for Excellence that has been caring for Justina in recent weeks. She added, “Pat Mahony has been my lifesaver. I don’t think I’d be here without him. He has given me hope. He has given my support. He’s a phenomenal person.”
When Justina returns home on Wednesday, the family plans a cookout and a romp in the family pool, just as they did on Father's Day last weekend when her family was allowed to bring her home for the day, Linda Pelletier said.