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Florida Sending Disabled Babies to Nursing Homes

Florida Sending Disabled Babies to Nursing Homes
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People are always shocked when I tell them that, had my 15-year-old autistic son Charlie been born in a previous generation, he would have been institutionalized. “That still happens?” people say.

Yes, it does. At the start of September, U.S. Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez threatened legal action against the state of Florida for essentially warehousing children with developmental disabilities – including babies — in nursing homes designed for elderly residents. In a 22 page letter to Florida’s Attorney General, the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division charged that hundreds of the state’s children are “spending their formative years in hospital-like institutions, sometimes growing up in the equivalent of hospital rooms with virtually no education or socialization.”

Not only did the letter say that some of the children had spent at least a decade if not longer in nursing homes. It also alleges that the state of Florida had placed the children in nursing homes as part of a “system of care” that it has actually planned, structured and administered.

Florida Could Be In Violation of the ADA

The result has been that children have been subjected to “unnecessary segregation and isolation” in nursing facilities, sometimes hundreds of miles away from their families and in clear violation of the 1990 American with Disabilities Act (ADA), according to which individuals with disabilities are to be housed in community settings to the extent possible and not in institutional settings.

Indeed, the ADA led to concerted efforts to move individuals with disabilities out of institutions and into group homes and other community settings, as well as exposing the inhumane conditions of many such facilities.

Florida (Not Surprisingly) Denies Accusations

Florida is disputing the Departmetn of Justice’s (DOJ) accusations. Late last week, attorneys for three Florida state agencies sent a two page response to the DOJ, demanding to see its documentation and claiming the charges are based on “misinformation.”

“The state of Florida, through several state agencies, provides all medically necessary services to children with complex or fragile medical conditions — and does so in in the most integrated setting capable of meeting the child’s needs,” the agencies wrote, contending that 221 children have been placed in nursing homes “in consultation with their parents and doctors, and that the majority of those children rely on breathing or feeding tubes.”

The state also contends that the DOJ “essentially ambush[ed]” it by posting the letter on the DOJ website before the state of Florida had seen copies of documents, transcripts of interviews and nursing home inspection reports that the DOJ used.

Florida is also disputing the charge that there has been any kind of policy for systematically placing children with disabilities in nursing homes. Shelisha Coleman, a spokeswoman for Florida’s Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) emphasized in the Bradenton Herald that housing the children in such facilities was “medically necessary” and that the skilled staff of the nursing homes can provide expert care “up to 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”

Parents Want To Care For Children At Home

But interviews by the DOJ with parents reveal that many would prefer to care for their children at home, but have not been able to obtain the necessary funding from the state to do so. Indeed, disability advocates contend that housing children at home would cost the state less — indeed, money plays a large role in the state’s placing children in nursing homes.

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124 comments

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11:45PM PST on Feb 11, 2013

Saying "they're on a feeding tube" is completely irrelevant. As a special needs assistant in a school, she worked with a boy who was on a feeding tube and, in spite of his many disabilities (including blindness), could communicate (simply) and do work in class and was even learning Braille. He was a person who enjoyed the simple pleasures in life and thrived on attention. Picturing him in this situation breaks my heart. This should not be happening in 2013!

11:01AM PST on Jan 1, 2013

I am sure there are plenty of brown envelopes here where the care homes pay some money out to have the disabled placed with them, yes money talks no matter what country or language you speak......money talks

4:50AM PST on Dec 26, 2012

What the hell is going on in Florida? Oh I forgot they have a governor who should be in jail for all the millions in insurance fraud he committed leading them.

10:04AM PDT on Oct 17, 2012

they fund the institutes but cut funding for families wanting to care for their kids at home in a more normal, community type setting. pretty dumb choices

5:48PM PDT on Oct 5, 2012

I suggest researching Florida's Governor, who has been refusing a lot of Federal funds for much needed services. Look at the source of his personal wealth. It's a puzzle indeed.

2:03PM PDT on Oct 5, 2012

All lives matter as yours is treasured! Babies do not belong in nursing homes but with parents that can care for them in their own homes. Financially supported if the need is there.

5:23AM PDT on Oct 5, 2012

So sad in this day an age to treat people like that..i dont understand why some folks in society want to hide away other folks with disabilities no matter what they are...did they not watch the olympics???

4:34AM PDT on Oct 5, 2012

Society has so greatly devalued life that they just do not care. Children should be with their families. I realize some are physically or financially unable to do what they feel they should do. This is where they need to search out the LORD JESUS. If your life pleases Him, He will make a way for you. Who do you think has given you the grace to get this far? Who knows- you may be the one He sends healing to. It has happened.

5:22PM PDT on Sep 24, 2012

sigh

10:28AM PDT on Sep 24, 2012

Kudos to Florence D for seeing a child in need and responding with a mother's love.

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