Florida criticized for placing children in nursing homes

The death of a 14-year-old girl who suffered from cerebral palsy and persistent seizures has put renewed attention on Florida’s controversial decision to place sick children in nursing homes.

According to The Miami Herald, Marie Freyre died recently in the care of the Florida Club Care Center near Bradenton, Fla. Freyre was ordered there by state authorities when they determined her best care options were at that state-run nursing facility, not in the comfort of her own home. Officials with state child services removed Freyre from her home and family after she had been receiving care there for 14 years.

Instead, they figured, the child would benefit from the care offered at the $506-per-day nursing home facility but that theory is not based on much precedent, The Herald reports. In fact, most children who enter Florida nursing homes for their care are neglected and restricted from their life-saving medications and even proper nourishment. 

In the case of Freyre, the girl arrived at Florida Club Care against the wishes of the family and the child. The state believed it was going to provide the best possible care for the child given her circumstances. Based on the records obtained by the news source, the acts of negligence against Freyre began upon her arrival and continued up until her death.

The girl had not been given any of her necessary medications during her first night there. She was fed nothing but applesauce. And for two hours before she died, the girl struggled to breathe and the few breaths she could manage were to cry for help and for her family and home. During that time, staff at the nursing home failed to call a doctor to help her.

Florida insists on caring for children in Freyre’s condition by placing them in nursing homes. They do this even as they face increased scrutiny at the federal level and from advocacy groups who accuse the state of “warehousing” sick children in its nursing homes. The state has been threatened with lawsuits from the federal Justice Dept.’s Civil Rights division if it does not curb this practice of placing children at nursing homes.

Making matters worse for the children who are placed in the care of a nursing home are the conditions at these homes. As we’ve regularly reported on this site, Florida’s nursing home system is among the most broken in the country. Many nursing homes and assisted-living facilities there have been placed on state and federal watch lists for consistently delivering sub-standard, negligent, or even abusive care.

The Herald notes that two of the six nursing homes in Florida that are licensed to accept children as residents are on the states “watch list” and one of those residences is on a federal list of “marginal” homes. It commonly takes a pattern of abusive or negligent care to get a nursing home placed on one of these lists.

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