Florida Under Federal Scrutiny over Disabled Children in Nursing Homes
Tampa, FL (Law Firm Newswire) October 22, 2012 – The U.S. Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division recently released a grim report accusing Florida officials of improperly housing disabled children in adult nursing homes.
Federal laws require state governments to house and treat disabled people in socially integrative settings or at their homes whenever possible, as opposed to warehousing them in large, isolated institutions.
“This new report is troubling in its accusations,” said Tampa personal injury attorney Robert Joyce. “Disabled children should not be housed in nursing homes unless it truly means the best possible care for the child.”
The Justice Department alleged in its report that some parents have been denied realistic alternatives to keeping their disabled children in nursing homes, because medical services have been cut so severely as to make it all but impossible to care for them at home.
About 221 children who are disabled or otherwise have complex medical needs are living in nursing homes in Florida, mostly in or near the largest urban areas. A third or more are dependent on respirators, and as many as four out of five are fed through tubes.
The state has not yet made any official reply to the federal report, but Florida Surgeon General John Armstrong said that no parents are ever forced to put their child in a nursing home. He said all children covered under the state assistance program are evaluated individually and are provided specific benefits to meet their medical needs.
Responding to the controversy, Gov. Rick Scott said that his top priority was in making sure that parents, not the state, decided where their children were housed.
Although parents are not forced to put their disabled children in nursing homes, lack of financial assistance may leave them feeling as if they have no other option. And in some cases, care and attention at these facilities are woefully inadequate for a developing child. The federal report alleged that many such children are denied any education and may be left alone with little activity or supervision for hours at a time.
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