Florida is keeping disabled children in nursing homes and similar institutions, even though several of those children have families that want to care for them at home but don't have the money to do so. The U.S. Department of Justice has now sent a letter to Attorney General Pam Bondi arguing that this violates the Americans With Disabilities Act and the children's civil rights.
The federal investigation found that several of the children live in sterile environments and have minimal interaction with other human beings.
The investigation began last year. In January, the DOJ asked Bondi's office for documents and data. According to the Associated Press, Bondi refused to comply.
The investigation found that several children would be better off being cared for in family or community settings. Some are offered education opportunities that last for only about 45 minutes a day.
The DOJ claimed that Florida drastically cut funding to care for disabled adults and children, and there are now waiting lists for state services. Meanwhile, the state increased the amount nursing homes are paid if they take in disabled children to $500 a day, more than twice they're paid if they take in a disabled adult. This ultimately is cheaper for the state.
Many of these children could be living at home, but because of the cuts, the parents can no longer afford home care.
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One mother said her three-year-old daughter who has Down syndrome has been in the facility since she was a baby. The girl... requires intensive help so she can eat and breathe. The mother told federal investigators she wants to care for her daughter at home full time, but the state will only pay for enough home care on certain weekends, according to the letter.
Another mother said she had to drive two hours every day for more than three years to visit her son at a nursing home. The boy nearly drowned and requires a ventilator, but his doctor prescribed home health services so he could be cared for at home. The state ultimately provided those services after the family filed a lawsuit.
Many of the children have been injured in car accidents or near-drownings and have physical disabilities, but are mentally cognizant of what life was life before the accident.
"Indeed, the state has planned, structured, and administered a system of care that has led to the unnecessary segregation and isolation of children, often for many years, in nursing facilities," the letter reads.