Legally Kidnapped

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Monday, June 23, 2014

Pelletier family is reunited, and DCF must take stock

Pelletier family is reunited, and DCF must take stock

SIXTEEN-YEAR-OLD Justina Pelletier returned to her parents’ home on Wednesday, ending an unhappy custody dispute that focused a harsh national spotlight on the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families. To the web-driven “Free Justina” movement, the state’s decision to take Pelletier away from her family last year, after a hospital raised concerns that she may have been abused, was a textbook case of an overweening government trampling a family’s rights. That version of events cast aside all nuances, placing the state firmly in the role of villain. But on the most basic level, DCF acted correctly when it responded to a credible allegation of child abuse. Pelletier’s case doesn’t call for limiting DCF’s powers; rather, it shows the need for the agency to develop better ways to evaluate exceptionally tricky cases like this one.

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