On Monday, U.S. Justice Department filed a lawsuit against Florida, accusing the state of unnecessarily institutionalizing about 200 disabled children in nursing homes and cutting services that would allow them to receive care at home.
According to the article at Fox News, federal investigators made the discovery while visiting just six nursing homes around the state. Several children have apparently stayed nursing homes for years and have even grown up in one.
I was shocked when this story broke the other day. Some of the details give me chills. I have even pondered at the thought that I could have easily been one of those children as I am also disabled. For those unaware, I have Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy and I am confined to wheelchair and have limited muscles as a result. I even receive many of the services that these children stuck in nursing homes were denied by the state of Florida.
Life for a child in a nursing sounds challenging. The child is confined indoors indefinitely, most likely. They share common areas with the elderly. This isn’t horrible but it begs me to question if the children interact enough with other children.
Being in a nursing home even isolates the children from social, educational, and recreational experiences. The article claims that these activities were limited to as little as 45 minutes per day. Children need these experiences to develop socially and mentally. It’s how they develop their minds and grow up.
Just because these kids are disabled does not mean that they are no longer children. They still are and still need the experiences that a perfectly normal child. Being disabled is hard enough without the child being segregated, made invisible, devalued, and worse, being institutionalized.
The root of the problem is that the parents struggle to get the services that they need for their children to stay at home. Evidently the state plays hardball when trying to attain in home care yet jumps willy-nilly at the prospect of institutionalizing the child.
I completely agree with the actions that the state of Florida is taking and it is evident that the DOJ gave the state an opportunity to avoid their wrath.