Justice Dept. Sues Florida over Mistreatment of Disabled Children

Friday, July 26, 2013
Disabled child in Florida (photo: Miami Herald)

The U.S. Department of Justice is suing the state of Florida for forcing disabled children to live in nursing homes intended for the elderly.


Federal lawyers began investigating complaints about the practice in 2011, and warned state officials to make changes or else. The problems have arisen because state government slashed the budget for home care, while raising the amount paid to nursing homes that take in disabled children. It also turned down federal aid to help move children out of nursing homes.


According to the Department of Justice, “As a result of the state’s actions and inaction, the state has forced some families to face the cruel choice of fearing for their child’s life at home or placing their child in a nursing facility.”


In the federal complaint filed this week, Florida healthcare agencies were accused of acting with “deliberate indifference to the suffering” of frail and disabled children by offering parents no “meaningful” choice but to warehouse their children in nursing homes along with seniors.


The state is in violation of the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act, which forbids discrimination against people with special needs, the Justice Department claims.


Stephanie Mencimer at Mother Jones wrote: “The kids at the heart of the Florida suit are children who, for instance, suffered traumatic brain injuries and are reliant on ventilators, feeding tubes, and 24-hour nursing care because they could die in five minutes if a breathing tube came loose. Many of them also have cognitive deficiencies or are paralyzed in some way. In short, their families need a lot of help taking care of them. Rather than provide that support, Florida's response has been to push many kids into geriatric nursing homes, which are sometimes cheaper than home care but which also don't provide children nearly the sorts of developmental opportunities they get with their families or even in foster care.”

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

Feds Sue Florida over Care of Children in Nursing Homes (by Carol Marbin Miller and Katia Savchuk, Miami Herald)

Justice Department Sues Florida Over Disabled Kids in Nursing Homes (by Stephanie Mencimer, Mother Jones)

Justice Department Files Lawsuit Against the State of Florida for Unnecessarily Segregating Children with Disabilities (Department of Justice)

Autistic Children Lose Promising Treatment after Forced Switch to Medi-Cal (by Ken Broder, AllGov California)


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