Lawyers for Children’s Hospital plan to go to court Thursday to ask a judge to have the boy’s mother or Prince George’s County come and get him. They argue in court papers that the child has been abandoned in the emergency psychiatric unit since he arrived Sept. 15 and that no one is willing or able to free him. His mother has refused to bring him home; Prince George’s Child Protective Services has not accommodated him; the boy’s father, recently reunited with him in the hospital, has no legal right to take him.
The hospital, in court papers, likens the fifth-grader to “a trespasser” who is taking up needed bed space.
His emergency treatment has long since run its course, and the boy — identified in court papers only as “L.F.” — now finds himself the subject of a maddening bureaucratic trap: He needs ongoing help but has nowhere to go.
L.F.’s predicament is extremely rare, pitting a hospital against a county government and the mother of a child in one of its beds. Children’s Hospital has even made the drastic suggestion to a D.C. Superior Court judge in court papers that he order the boy to be placed in an ambulance and dropped off at a Prince George’s County social services office.
Kenneth Rosenau, an attorney for the hospital who filed the court papers, declined to comment Wednesday, as did Milton McIver, the associate county attorney representing Prince George’s.
The boy’s mother agreed to meet with a Washington Post reporter Wednesday night but did not arrive for the appointment.
The Post generally does not name troubled juveniles without a guardian’s consent, and in this case it is not naming the boy’s parents because doing so would identify him.
Hospital officials wrote in court documents that the child has a history of behavioral problems and that staying in a ward with a heavy rotation — children generally spend no more than about a week there — has reinforced his sense that something is wrong with him. They argue that he was ready to leave nearly a month ago and needs to move out, both for his sake and for the hospital’s.
But the hospital can’t transfer him without a guardian’s approval.
Children’s Hospital “is not a hotel in which one can check in and stay so long as one pays,” its attorneys wrote.
Even though the boy is covered by insurance, the hospital has asked a judge to force Prince George’s to take custody of him, perhaps to place him in therapeutic foster care or a residential treatment center. The county has indicated to the hospital that it would like 60 to 90 more days to find a suitable facility, according to court papers.
Lavette Sims, a spokeswoman for the Prince George’s County Department of Social Services, said she could not comment on the case because it is pending. Typically, Sims said, her agency acts when a child is abandoned in Prince George’s. L.F. is in the District.