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Who Owns Our Kids Anyway?

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

On Valentine's Day 2013, the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families took into emergency custody then-14-year-old Justina Pelletier because the doctors at Tufts Medical Center and doctors at Boston Children's Hospital collided over the diagnosis of her rare medical condition. But when medical egos and battles lead to a child's being torn from her parents by judges ruling on dubious grounds, isn't it time to confess that something is seriously askew in society and even under the stethoscope?

Fox News recently summarized the 15-month custody catastrophe by explaining that Tufts was originally treating Justina for a rare mitochondrial disease affecting cellular energy production. When gastrointestinal problems complicated her ailments, Tufts' doctors referred her to Boston Children's Hospital. But those doctors diagnosed her instead with somatoform disorder -- a psychological condition that has no known physical origin.

Justina's parents immediately rejected the new psychiatric diagnosis and let their grievances be known to the Boston Children's Hospital personnel. But rather than console and work with the parents, the staff called in the state, which in turn accused the parents of medical child abuse.

Justina was held captive for nearly a year in a psychiatric ward for children before being transported to a Wayside Youth & Family Support Network facility. In March, a juvenile court judge reprimanded the parents for verbal assault and abuse. But Justina's parents cried foul, claiming the judge ignored Tufts' standing medical testimony that their daughter's diagnosis was in fact mitochondrial disease.

Fox News further reported this past week that after being held for 15 months by the commonwealth of Massachusetts, Justina was moved to a facility in her own state of Connecticut. Ironically, that transfer came a day after her family was denied a visit with her in the previous facility on Mother's Day.

Justina's father told Fox News that the new facility is "only 15 minutes closer" than the Massachusetts complex and that it was "just a lateral move." Her parents went on to say the move was "not at all meant as a step toward regaining custody," which a judge will ultimately decide. They called the whole hospital-state fiasco with their child "barbaric."

Since the whole custody tragedy began, Justina's parents have been granted only hourly visits each week. And throughout it all, Justina hasn't attended school or church and, most heartbreaking of all, has been kept from the security, safety and loving warmth of her own family, home and bed. Is it any wonder why her condition continues to deteriorate?

All Justina's parents want now is for the commonwealth of Massachusetts to allow their beloved child to finally come home and celebrate her 16th birthday on May 24. Isn't that the least that state officials could do, especially after all the family has been through?

My friend Mike Huckabee stated it well back in March: "What a shame when the government thinks that it knows better (how) to take care of the medical treatment of the daughter than the mother and the father do."

Huckabee added, "There's something wrong when a government kidnaps children from their own families." And I would add that there is something equally wrong when a situation such as this prompts millions of other parents across the country to become paranoid about taking their child to the hospital for fear that a misdiagnosis could lead to the child's abduction by the state.

The problem is that these medical mishaps with government intervention are becoming more commonplace. And do we really expect them to lessen when government has totally taken over the medical world via Obamacare?

If you think the federal government will never tell you what to do with your child's health care, remember that the Affordable Care Act provides (via grants to states) for home visitation programs by government agents to educate parents on child behavior and parenting skills.

Imagine how that health care provision might play out as state officials walk into your home invoking their values and beliefs upon your parenting and children.

It's time for the government to stop overreaching into our families and dictating where children can pray, what children will learn, what children will eat, what medical treatment children will receive and where children will go to school.

Government needs less of a role in running our families and more of a role in supporting parents' decisions for their children. Children belong to their parents, not to the government. And parents ought to have the right and government support to parent them without federal mandates, education or invasion in our homes.

That is why many of our Founding Fathers shared a sentiment that can be summarized in this statement: That government is best which governs least.

As Huckabee put it, "I know that mothers and fathers raise better children than governments ever will."

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