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Teen’s Death in Senior Nursing Home a ‘Travesty,’ Leads Florida Department of Children and Families to Alter Policy

In the wake of the death of Marie Freyre – the 14-year-old Tampa child with cerebral palsy forcibly removed from her home and placed in an adult nursing home, where she soon died – the Florida Department of Children and Families now is pushing to curb the practice of steering foster kids to such institutionalized care.

Administrators are demanding “high-level approval” before kids can be admitted to a nursing home or moved from one to another. The agency also will recruit foster parents with the skills to care for the state’s most fragile and at-risk children.

Christina Spudeas, executive director at Florida’s Children First, the state’s premier child advocacy organization, told the paper that DCF must do more than slow the move of kids into nursing homes. It must remove them all children from such institutions.

“It’s a travesty,” Spudeas told the Herald. “There is no doubt at all that children need proper supports in the home environment.”

The original policies not only seemingly made little sense – in Marie’s case, taking her from her mother, who’d provided care for all her life. In-home care and oversight can be far less expensive than in-facility services.

<strong><a href=”http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/12/04/3126870/dcf-wants-its-kids-out-of-nursing.html#storylink=cpy” target=”_blank”>As the Miami Herald wrote</a></strong>, “With Florida under heavy fire for funneling sick and disabled children into nursing homes designed for elders, child welfare administrators have quietly enacted a new policy aimed at keeping sick foster kids in community settings.”

The DCF edict might not be so easy to pull off. According to the Herald, the DCF’s new rule conflicts with policies of the state’s Agency for Health Care Administration, “whose funding formula has forced some parents to put their disabled kids into institutions,” the paper wrote.

This remains a sad example of a preventable wrongful death that attorneys believe could result in a civil damages case and damage claims. One newspaper called her example a “bitter reminder of a dog fight” being waged between federal civil rights lawyers and the state health administration officials who attorneys and advocates accuse of warehousing sick and disabled children in adult nursing homes.

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