U.S. District Court Rules Florida Breaches Children’s Rights with Unneeded Institutionalization

On Friday, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida declared that Florida State was breaking children’s rights. They were forcing kids with serious and often difficult health issues to stay in nursing homes.

The Court’s Ruling and its Implications

After nearly ten years of legal battles, a court ruling has caused a major change in how children with disabilities are treated in Florida. It guarantees their right to be part of their communities. The verdict came following a two-week court trial in May, where many experts and family members spoke up. They pleaded for the children, currently in nursing homes, to be let out.

“This verdict clearly states that children with serious medical conditions deserve love and care from their families. They should not be stuck in nursing homes, away from their communities,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke. The Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department strongly believes people with disabilities should not be kept away from society but should be allowed full involvement in their communities.

Florida’s Policy Violations

The lawsuit accused the state’s policies of violating the Americans with Disabilities Act, forcing children with disabilities to grow up in facilities, separated from their families. The court determined that the state placed some children at serious risk of unnecessary institutionalization while keeping others unnecessarily institutionalized. These actions highlight the systemic issues plaguing Florida’s handling of complex child health cases.

Impact on Families

Parents of institutionalized children overwhelmingly wish to bring their children home. However, the lack of meaningful options other than institutional placement left many feeling helpless and trapped. “I was scared, and I didn’t feel like I had a choice. I felt like there was no choice,” parent Heather Patten testified about her toddler son during the trial. Her sentiment was echoed by numerous other parents, all yearning for the chance to provide a nurturing home environment for their children.

The Magnitude of the Problem

About 140 children with various disabilities are residing in three pediatric nursing facilities throughout the state. However, a deficit of accessible specialized services puts an estimated 1,800 more of them at risk of entering those same institutions, according to the Justice Department. These children, many of whom rely on medical technology such as ventilators, live with a range of medical conditions and disabilities.

Remedial Measures Required

The court’s ruling necessitates that Florida ensures children with complex medical needs can access essential services in their own communities. Florida is required to develop transition plans for institutionalized children and engage families to ensure they can make informed choices about where their children live.

“This important ruling will help Florida families of disabled children keep and care for their children at home by requiring increased access to medical support and services,” U.S. Attorney Markenzy Lapointe said in a statement. These systematic changes in Florida are expected to prevent the unnecessary institutionalization of children with complex medical needs.


This key ruling of the court impacts numerous kids needing assistance and their relations. It serves as an encouragement for parents to do their best to look after their kids at home. It delivers a strong statement – every child deserves the opportunity to grow within a caring family and neighborhood. The verdict also emphasizes the importance of having easy access to healthcare services and fostering the inclusion of children with disabilities in their localities.

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