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Justina Pelletier placed in permanent custody of Massachusetts

A judge ruled today that Justina Pelletier, a Connecticut teen who is the subject of a heated custody dispute, will be placed in the “permanent” custody of the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families.

A report from the Boston Globe said Massachusetts Juvenile Court Judge Joseph Johnston awarded custody of Pelletier to the state. This means the agency will get to “decide whether or when Pelletier should be returned to her West Hartford, Conn., home.” The report also indicated that Pelletier’s parents will not be allowed to appeal the decision until summer.

Johnston’s ruling is in line with a previous ruling that had kept Pelletier in the state’s temporary custody after a dispute over the 15-year-old’s health and how it was being handled.

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From the Globe:

By awarding permanent custody, the judge is effectively putting in a more final form a ruling that he made three months ago. After completing a trial on the case, in which he heard testimony from Pelletier herself, as well as her parents and the girl's health providers, the judge concluded there was sufficient evidence to find the parents were unfit to care for the complex medical and psychiatric needs of their daughter.

Nevertheless, some were surprised by the ruling after a previous story from the Globe said state childcare officials were “actively working to return” Pelletier to her home state.

Today’s report said a “person briefed on the decision” said the state has “no immediate plans” to move Pelletier to Connecticut or return her to the custody of her parents.

The 15-year-old is currently at a residential facility in Framingham. She previously spent a year in psychiatric care at Children’s Hospital.

Today’s Globe report also details the complicated nature of her medical history:

The Department of Children and Families took emergency custody of the teen on Valentine's Day 2013 after a diagnostic dispute arose between doctors at Tufts Medical Center and Boston Children's Hospital over the causes of her medical problems, including difficulty eating and walking.

Tufts doctors had been treating Pelletier for mitochondrial disease, a group of rare genetic disorders affecting cellular energy production, but physicians at Children's concluded that her symptoms were largely psychiatric in origin. Her parents rejected the new diagnosis, and when they tried to move the girl back to Tufts, the Children's team notified the state that it suspected the parents of medical child abuse.

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