ONTD Political

Florida Teen Dies After Disabled Mom Loses Custody

12:16 am - 12/08/2012
TW: Ableism, Medical Abuse, Institutionalization)

The last time Doris Freyre saw her 14-year-old daughter, Marie, alive was around 1 p.m. on April 26.
She watched helplessly as the disabled girl was strapped to a stretcher and sent by ambulance to a nursing home in Miami -- five hours away from their home in Tampa, Fla.

Florida child welfare authorities had deemed Freyre, a 59-year-old single mother with six herniated discs and carpal tunnel syndrome in both her wrists, unable to take care of Marie, who had cerebral palsy and suffered from life-threatening seizures.

Marie, who was in state custody despite pleas from her mother that she could better care for her daughter at home, died alone just 12 hours later on April 27 -- dehydrated and not properly medicated -- of cardiac arrest
, according to a Miami Herald investigation.

Neither a nurse nor a social worker accompanied the screaming girl en route to the institution. And her mother was not allowed to ride with the girl, who could not talk and had a rigid medication routine.

"I started crying because I knew it would be too much for my daughter on that trip," Freyre, heaving with sobs, told ABCNews.com. "There was no doctor there to receive her, only nurses. They didn't send a report on how to give her food or meds. They didn't give her food or water until late hours of the night. My family has been destroyed."

An estimated 4.1 million parents have disabilities in the United States -- roughly 6.2 percent of all parents with children under 18, according to a report released in September by the National Council on Disability, "Rocking the Cradle: Ensuring the Rights of Parents with Disabilities and Their Children."

They are the only parents who as a group must struggle to retain custody of their children solely because of their disabilities, according to council attorney Robyn Powell.

Removal rates where parents have a psychiatric disability can be as high as 70 to 80 percent; for an intellectual disability, 40 to 80 percent; and with physical disability, 13 percent, according to the report.

Parents who are blind or deaf also have extremely high rates of child removal and loss of their parental rights.

"We also find it interesting that two-thirds of the states' child welfare laws list disability in and of itself as ground for termination of parents' rights,"
said Powell. "They don't have to come in and say a parent even did anything bad."

The federal Americans With Disabilities Act mandates states to support these parents by providing "reasonable accommodations."

Freyre had received support through Medicaid for her daughter's care, but needed some additional help at night. An aide, who was later discredited, made a report to child welfare authorities that triggered the child's removal from the home.

Marie's case was bungled by bureaucracy, according to the lengthy investigation by the Miami Herald, which first reported the story.

A Tampa judge ordered Marie returned to her mother, but with 24/7 in-home nursing care.

"You are to be congratulated for caring for your daughter alone for 14 years. This is something that has to have been very, very difficult for you as a mother," Hillsborough Circuit Judge Vivian Corvo said at a hearing on the case March 30, 2011. "I was moved by how hard you've worked to take care of your daughter."

But state health care officials refused to pay for the in-home care, even though it cost less than institutionalizing Marie. Other agencies and health care officials either didn't communicate with one another or ignored the court, according to the Herald.

The girl lingered in Tampa General Hospital for 29 days before she was loaded on an ambulance stretcher screaming. Freyre was not allowed to go with her daughter to help with feeding and to keep her stable.

"This is one of the worst cases I have ever seen, and I have handled some bad cases," said Peter J. Brudny, a medical malpractice attorney who is representing Freyre. "These are scars she will carry forever."

"Had [Marie] lived and not seen this horrendous breakdown by every agency, she would have been warehoused ... in Miami for months and maybe the rest of her life," he said.

Brudny said he was looking into a federal lawsuit alleging violation of Freyre's civil rights against the various agencies involved in the care of the teen who died.

Tampa General Hospital issued a prepared statement on the case: "We were surprised and tremendously saddened to learn of this child's death 12 hours after she arrived without incident at the nursing home in Miami. We know how hard her mother worked to care for her, and the circumstances are truly tragic."

The statement said state child welfare authorities had placed the child at the hospital for "shelter" while other arrangements were being made.

"We cannot comment on specific details of her care due to patient privacy issues," it said. "However, Tampa General Hospital vigorously denies that it violated any court orders or that the patient was underfed or dehydrated while at the hospital. Her physicians would not have authorized her discharge if they had any concerns about her medical condition."

It said "all decisions" on placement and medical transport were made by the Florida Department of Children and Families "in consultation" with a private ambulance company.

The Department of Children and Families outsources many of its services as required by the state legislature and didn't have the legal authority to make all the decisions in the case, according to its communications director Joe Follick, who said Marie Freyre's case had been "tragic and sad."

"We want to do everything we can not to incur another tragedy," he said. Follick said there needed to be a "broader education effort," and parents, as well as health care providers, needed to know all options available for children in their custody.

"Everyone should know the goal is to keep children with their families, and that becomes the primary focus no matter how complicated the situation," he said.

Florida's Agency for Health Care Administration said both Tampa General and the Miami nursing home, then the Florida Club Care Center and now renamed Golden Glades Nursing and Rehabilitation Center -- were investigated in September 2011.

"We did find immediate jeopardy at both facilities," said AHCA spokesman Shelisha Coleman. "Findings of immediate jeopardy carry the highest penalty under the federal survey program."

Tampa General was cited for "discharge planning" and was given 23 days to address the violation or risk losing its public funding. AHCA said the hospital addressed those issues. It was also fined $5,000.

Florida Club was cited with 84 pages of violations including neglect, pharmaceutical services and "responsibilities of the medical director."

Alex Camacho, administrator at Golden Glades, twice, did not return ABCNews.com's calls seeking comment.

Parents with disabilities are more likely to lose custody of their children after divorce, have more difficulty in accessing reproductive health care and face significant barriers to adopting children, according to the national report.

The report said women with disabilities still face "coercive tactics designed to encourage sterilization or abortion because they are not deemed fit for motherhood."

Powell, the attorney for the National Council on Disability, uses a power wheelchair for a disabling condition called arthrogryposis, which affects her muscles and joints and gives her limited use of her arms but not her legs.

She is 31 and single and said that her doctors ask her "more times than I can count" if she would consider a hysterectomy.

"I had a doctor's appointment this morning and was asked again," she said. "I probably will have children sooner or later, and they were taken aback again. There is no medical reason not to. I am very healthy -- my disability is solely physical."

She would likely need an adaptive crib and changing table, and either a nanny or personal assistant, otherwise, Powell said, "I have no doubt I would be a great mother. We know parents are so much more than being able to change a diaper."

The National Council on Disability released in October a tool kit that helps states find ways to close nursing homes and other institutions that care for children like Marie Freyre because of both "harm and cost," said Powell. "We know it is cheaper to provide, and children should live with their parents."

"Support you are talking about is typically temporary or intermittent," she said. "After the first two or three years, you don't need it anymore. The kids are up and walking."

As for Doris Freyre, she said her whole life revolved around her daughter and it was taken away.

"It was unbelievable -- she took care of her for 14 years," said Freyre's friend Marissa Vasquez. "She was good mother, a special mother. God knows who to give kids like this to."

Freyre said she made sure her daughter got outside each day, home schooled her and even took her to physical therapy and swimming lessons.

The girl was not able to talk, but could gesture. "She was very intelligent, and knew all her surroundings," said Freyre. "She understood perfectly when you talked to her."

</b>Freyre said she complained to authorities that being on a stretcher for five hours would hurt Marie, who had two dislocated hips. She also worried about hydrating the girl so she did not seizure.

"I knew what would happen to her," she said. "First, when she stopped her seizure medications, she would go into a tantrum in that heated condition. She would start screaming and they wouldn't know how to deal with her -- she would be crying all night."

"I loved my daughter with all my heart," Freyre said. "She had a horrible, horrible death."</b>

source by SUSAN DONALDSON JAMES @ abcnews.go
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chaya 8th-Dec-2012 03:03 pm (UTC)
Florida tag please.

Also, this story destroyed my morning. Fucking awful. That poor girl.
pamelalillian 8th-Dec-2012 03:09 pm (UTC)

and horrible that they keep trying force the attorney into "voluntary" sterilization.

eugenics... so beautiful.

teacup_werewolf 8th-Dec-2012 03:26 pm (UTC)
The ADA is a joke.
kaelstra 8th-Dec-2012 03:27 pm (UTC)
A hysterectomy is awfully extreme to try and stop a woman from having children, like they're implying. It'd be far cheaper and easier to do a tubal...is there another reason they're suggesting she get a hysterectomy that I just missed? O_o
emofordino 8th-Dec-2012 04:08 pm (UTC)
That's exactly what I was thinking! If that woman got a hysterectomy, she would end up going into menopause and have all kids of secondary issues relating to the loss of estrogen. Why they would suggest it for a 31 year old woman is beyond me. I'm hoping she was quoted incorrectly or accidentally used the wrong term or something.
wikilobbying 8th-Dec-2012 03:30 pm (UTC)
i had to stop reading this because it's putting me in tears. so the state decides freyre can't take care of her daughter, and then they fail to keep her daughter taken care of when they let health care professionals take her. fuck them. fuck every single person who failed freyre and her daughter.
hey_kayla_jay 8th-Dec-2012 09:58 pm (UTC)
The girl died TWELVE HOURS LATER. How- what the- why di- WHAT!?!
shadwrayvn 8th-Dec-2012 03:33 pm (UTC)
I work in healthcare & wish I could say this kind of thing is rare but sadly it isn't. CPS oh I really hate them & having to work with them is a nightmare! I swear they target the better families while the repeat offenders still seem to be able to keep their children? Honestly this woman did nothing to deserve having her child taken away yet they kept her from her daughter! I'm so sick just sick over this woman's pain & the pain her poor baby had to suffer.
furrygreen 8th-Dec-2012 03:41 pm (UTC)
WTF is going on in Florida?

And that poor girl and her family! D:
grey853 8th-Dec-2012 03:43 pm (UTC)
Disgusting, absolutely and totally disgusting example of a clusterfuck.

tilmon 8th-Dec-2012 03:54 pm (UTC)
Someone made the decision to take this child from her mother. Someone made the decision to put this child into a nursing home. Someone needs to be charged with kidnapping, abuse of power, and murder. And everyone in a position to know what was going on but who went along with it should be charged as an accessory. You should have said "no." People need to take responsibility for their work. Doing your job sometimes means refusing to go along with authority.

Edited at 2012-12-08 04:11 pm (UTC)
romp 8th-Dec-2012 05:30 pm (UTC)
I agree. Someone is responsible and should be held accountable.
avashida 8th-Dec-2012 04:01 pm (UTC)
I'm just crying. This is so, so horrible, all of it. But I'm also furious. How can this system be so fucked up?
chasingtides 8th-Dec-2012 04:42 pm (UTC)
Fuck everything.
tamingheadfauna 8th-Dec-2012 04:45 pm (UTC)
I am so sad and angry after reading this. And I'm so glad Freyre is suing and I hope she wins. I understand it won't bring her daughter back, but if she wins there is Precedence and when there is Precedence, there is more ammunition to be used to affect needed change!

Shit like this isn't limited to Florida. I live in a traditionally "Blue State" and in a traditionally "Blue Area" and hearing some of the shit my friends and acquaintances have to deal with to live their lives is absolutely horrifying. Need to replace a wheel chair lift? Need a license to drive? Need to have medical providers listen to you about treatment options and... Well... treatment generally? It's a fucking travesty.

Sadly, when it comes to rigid medication and treatment regimens to remain healthy and one is hospitalized is no guarantee it will continue. Last year around this time, I had to fucking police the nurses and the doctors about receiving what I needed when I needed it when I was barely in a position to be able to advocate for myself. It's not my fault the hospital doesn't carry what I need. It's not my fault I had to refuse some of what they were trying to give me as a substitute because those were absolutely useless for my body. It's not my fault their kitchens and dietitian were ill equipped to deal with my dietary requirements and I had to rely on friends to bring me what I needed (and even then, it wasn't provided because it was from "outside".) It's not my fault I was losing too much weight because of this versus my acute medical state.

And this was at a well-known teaching and research hospital!

I'm so mad right now.

/toss table
a_phoenixdragon 8th-Dec-2012 07:35 pm (UTC)
Oh, honey...I'm so sorry. Gods. These stories are nightmares - and we all have a personal stake/know someone who has gone through this kind of stupidity. It's frigging appalling!

hermionemalfoy 8th-Dec-2012 04:57 pm (UTC)
This cannot be allowed to happen again. We need real accountability.

And yet, I have every certainty that violations of human rights of this nature are occurring on a daily basis in the US, perpetrated by authorities who are understaffed, uneducated, and prejudiced. :(
sarah531 8th-Dec-2012 04:58 pm (UTC)
God. I feel sick.
recorded 8th-Dec-2012 05:02 pm (UTC)
ladyvoldything 8th-Dec-2012 05:04 pm (UTC)
This is disgusting. I can't believe that state agencies ignored the courts, I CAN believe that women with disabilities get treated like dogshit for wanting to be parents. I can also believe that nobody in that facility gave one half of a whole goddamn about how to treat that poor little girl, and that they weren't interested in what the mother had to say, because how the fuck would she know, she's disabled. How dare she say anything, she's an unfit mother, she got her child taken away. I can believe they wouldn't listen to her or consider that a mother might know her child.

As an aside, OP, you have a broken bold tag at the bottom of the article.
effervescent 8th-Dec-2012 05:28 pm (UTC)
That's so awful. How horrendous that that girl had to go through that, and her mother. :(
omimouse 8th-Dec-2012 05:28 pm (UTC)
So, efectively, you should only have kids if you're straight, hetero-normative, white, cis, able-bodied, neurotypical, some denomination of Christian, non-kinky, non-poly, and wealthy.

In related news, I'm back to being terrified that when I manage to have kids, CPS is going to take them away.
silver_apples 8th-Dec-2012 06:58 pm (UTC)
And if you are straight, hetero-normative, white, cis, able-bodied, neurotypical, some denomination of Christian, non-kinky, non-poly, and wealthy, it is your duty to marry and reproduce, because you would make such a "great" parent.
alryssa 8th-Dec-2012 05:31 pm (UTC)
Fucking hell. This is awful. And sadly, pretty typical of the system. God fucking damn these people.
romp 8th-Dec-2012 05:33 pm (UTC)
This is why we need regulations to ensure we help those in need.

But state health care officials refused to pay for the in-home care, even though it cost less than institutionalizing Marie.

So there was no justification AND this decision involved defying a judge! I really hope the person who made this call wraps up their career because they failed at this one.
myrrhmade 8th-Dec-2012 05:43 pm (UTC)
I get asked the "would you let us sterilize you" bit too because I'm 45 and disabled. Sort of ironic for me now because when I was in my 20's and knew I wouldn't be having children I asked so many different doctors to tie my tubes, and none would. Because I was a silly girl and would obviously change my mind.

This system is so fucked up. It hurts way more people than it helps. There are so many horrible stories like this and nothing ever changes. This poor woman. I hope she sues the fuck out of everyone. I know even that won't change the system, but hopefully it will shine some light on this type of fuckery.
moiread 8th-Dec-2012 06:00 pm (UTC)
I'm 27 and disabled. Endometrial ablation would stop me from having 9-month-long hemorrhagic periods that require hospitalizations and blood transfusions, and it's a fast, simple, low-risk, outpatient procedure that makes no structural or hormonal changes. All temporary options were exhausted six years ago but I still can't get anyone to do the ablation on me because OMG BABIES and of course I must want to be a mother and of course I'll regret the surgery later and how can anyone my age possibly be responsible for her own reproductive choices. I'm just some WOMAN, how can I be trusted to make thoughtful, responsible decisions about my body, right?

And yet I know that if my mobility issues were any worse, I've have to fight doctors off with a stick to keep my uterus at all.

Edited at 2012-12-08 06:23 pm (UTC)
lantean_breeze 8th-Dec-2012 05:47 pm (UTC)
This is so very sad and horrible. That poor girl and her brave mother. I hope that what has happened to them can help bring about changes that keep this from happening to other families like this.
randomtasks 8th-Dec-2012 05:47 pm (UTC)
This doesn't surprise me at all.

I've known deaf parents who had their kids taken away just because a lot of people reports them to CPS since they thought they were "abusing" their kids by being deaf.
lisaquestions 9th-Dec-2012 07:58 am (UTC)
My stepfather and his twin brother were taken from their mother because she was deaf, and put in an orphanage.

I am not sure what happened to said twin brother over the years. They finally met again when they were in their 70s - at their mother's funeral - and said brother died a couple of months later.
anjak_j 8th-Dec-2012 06:34 pm (UTC)
This from the country that did not sign/ratify the UN Disability Rights Treaty because of fear of this very situation being imposed on parents...
aviv_b 8th-Dec-2012 06:47 pm (UTC)
That was my first thought as well. And wasn't the reason that they were afraid of the U.N. taking control of children. Sounds like CPS is a lot more worrying.
kitanabychoice 8th-Dec-2012 06:35 pm (UTC)
Plain horrifying. This is another death that didn't have to happen.
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