Father’s day is emotional for dads everywhere, but perhaps even more than most for Lou Pelletier, the father of Justina Pelletier.
Justina, 16, who remains in Massachusetts Dept. of Children and Families’ custody, was allowed to go home and visit her dad Sunday.
The visit marked what was only the second time in 16 months that she was back in her West Hartford home.
It came ahead of Friday, which is the first day the judge presiding over her custody case can revisit his decision to give custody to Massachusetts DCF.
Pelletier has been living at the Justice Resource Institute (JRI) Susan Wayne Center for Excellence in Thompson, Conn., since last month. Her family has been allowed to visit her there.
Her mother, Linda Pelletier, has seen her almost every day.
Linda has been living in a hotel just north of the Connecticut border, in Massachusetts.
Sunday’s trip home was an unsupervised visit. She enjoyed a Cirque Du Soleil show and then a barbecue with her dad at the grill.
“It was bittersweet. There were parts of me that wanted to cry of happiness, but there was parts of me that wanted to cry with sadness because end of the day … she was leaving and she didn’t want to go,” says Lou Pelletier.
June marks 16 months since Pelletier was taken from her parents’ custody after a medical diagnosis dispute and doctors at Boston Children’s Hospital accused the parents of medical child abuse.
But June 20 also marks six months since a December custody decision and the first time the judge will review the arrangement to consider Justina’s permanent return home.
In the past few weeks, Pelletier attorneys filed a motion for her release, as did attorneys for the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families, prompting some to say the judge could release Justina at any moment.
“What’s the judge waiting for? He doesn’t have to wait until the 20th. He can do it now,” says Lou Pelletier.
Controversy aside, Father’s Day provided at least a day of relief for Justina’s dad, and based on photos, put a smile on her face as well.
“I think she was so happy to be back. Who wouldn’t be? She wants to be a normal kid, go back to school and be with her friend and family,” says Justina’s sister, Jessica Pelletier.
For now, Justina’s West Hartford room remains empty, as she awaits word from the judge, who will decide where she spends the rest of her summer and beyond.
“It was great that we had the family there and dad’s on the grill and life seemed like it was 16 months ago. We were one family. Everything was good,” says Lou Pelletier.
There’s no court date set for June 20, so it’s unclear exactly when and how the judge will release his findings upon reviewing the case once more.