Lawsuit: Fort Lauderdale Nursing Homes Illegally Warehousing Children

March 20, 2012 by Dean H. Freeman

Allegations of nursing home abuse in Florida are being lodged against the state, by parents who say disabled children are being illegally warehoused in facilities when less restrictive options are available.
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Our Fort Lauderdale nursing home abuse attorneys understand that the case involves some 250 children who are already in nursing home care, while another 5,000 are at risk of entering the system. The latter group has filed a separate lawsuit.

It all stems from the state's systematic denial of home nursing care to families who wish to care for their children in the comfort of their homes, rather than have them housed in an institution.

The suit was filed in a Fort Lauderdale federal court. The families say the state is violating not only the Americans with Disabilities Act, but also a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court that mandates states offer services that would keep individuals in the least-restrictive care setting. This would include group homes or foster care.

Although pressed by various media sources, authorities with the Agency for Health Care Administration, which runs the Medicaid program in the state, refused to offer comment on the issue.

In one case, a teenage girl has been living in the children's wing of a Plantation nursing home for the last five years. She had suffered severe brain damage when she was shaken as a baby. She can't talk or walk and requires a breathing tube on most days. She had been taken to the nursing home for a short illness, but the state won't allow her to return to her foster family. The family wants to provide her in-home care, and she's been in stable condition for years. But the state won't give them anything more than 8 hours of in-home care per day - not enough to cover her around-the-clock medical needs.

Some say it makes financial sense. It costs about $500 a day - or about $180,000 annually - to have a child cared for in a state nursing home. That's much less than $250,000 annually, which is the cost of providing home health care.

But advocates say that those figures don't factor in the many resources that these families often employ to get some of those services elsewhere. In the long run, having kids living with in-home health care saves the state money.

So why would the state want to keep them in nursing homes? As Miami Herald Columnist Fred Grimm pointed out: money. Aging baby boomers are more frequently seeking alternatives to institutionalized, nursing home care. That has meant a decrease in the number of patients. Nursing homes are frantic to fill those beds and keep their state funding. These has them turning to children - regardless of whether they actually need to be there.

The bottom line here is that if at all possible, children should not be cared for in centers designed for the geriatric population. These centers were never meant for or designed for children. They are meant for people over the age of 65.

These children should have a chance to thrive at home with their families or in the state's expansive network of medical foster homes.

The Broward County nursing home abuse and neglect attorneys at Freeman, Mallard, Sharp & Gonzalez, LLC are dedicated to protecting nursing home residents in Fort Lauderdale or the surrounding areas. If you detect abuse of your loved one, call for a free no-obligation appointment at 1-800-561-7777.

Additional Resources:
Lawsuit claims state traps sick, disabled kids in nursing homes, By Bob LaMendola, Sun Sentinel

Kids don’t belong in old-folks homes, By Fred Grimm, Miami Herald

More Blog Entries:
Abuse and Neglect a Concern at For-Profit Nursing Homes in Fort Lauderdale, Elsewhere, Aug. 28, 2011, Fort Lauderdale Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer Blog