The state of Florida violates the rights of children with complex medical needs, a federal judge decided late last week.
According to the Department of Justice, these children were unnecessarily institutionalized in nursing homes while placing other children at serious risk of unnecessary institutionalization.
The DOJ claimed that state policies violated the Americans with Disabilities Act. The suit claims the state caused harm by separating children from their families and community.
The suit also claims that many parents wanted their children to live at home, but were left with few options other than institutionalization. The federal judge's decision comes after nearly a decade of litigation.
"This is a momentous decision impacting hundreds of vulnerable children and their families," said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. "The court’s ruling sends a clear message that children with complex medical needs deserve to grow up with the love and support of their families and should not be confined to nursing facilities where they are stripped apart from their communities."
According to testimony, parents felt they had no choice but to send their children to institutions far from home.
"I was scared, and I didn't feel like I had a choice. I felt like there was no choice," said parent Heather Patten, whose toddler was placed in a nursing home.
The court said to fix the problem, the state of Florida must provide ways for children with complex disabilities to access the services they need to live in their own homes and communities.
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