Miami – (CBSMiami.com) – High above the crowd – Anabell Schlosser beams with a smile – fit for any little girl.
However, riding a horse is an accomplishment and joy doctors never expected the 15-year-old girl to experience. Born premature, Anabell she weighed just 4 pounds at 2 months and because at birth -she lost oxygen to the brain – there were those who thought her future was a lost cause. But not her mom.
“My child is not a problem. She’s an opportunity. She’s a sweet, loving soul and she’s been the biggest gift in my entire life,” said Janna Montgomery.
Janna Montgomery raised Anabell at home infusing a regimen of therapies for Cerebral Palsy, with the most potent medicine in the world, she says, love.
But now, she says she faces a long-feared nightmare: the state of Florida is leaving her little choice but to send her daughter to live in a nursing home.
“She’s the love of my life,” Montgomery said. “The thought of her having to go into a facility like that would just – that would just tear my heart out. I couldn’t bear it.”
Anabell is one of more than 3,000 children whose parents say cuts to home health care hours that they need to keep their children alive and healthy may force them to place their children in nursing homes.
Attorney Matt Dietz is leading the legal challenge representing families whose children are in nursing homes or at risk of being placed in them.
“Nursing homes are not made for children. A parent should not have a gun placed to their head — take less care or your child’s going to go into a nursing home,” Dietz told CBS4’s Chief Investigator Michele Gillen. “And every 6 months it’s the same gun to their head saying we are going to reduce your hours and they have to fight.”
Dietz filed the suit against the state on behalf of desperate parents of special needs children who want to keep them home, at a time when the numbers of such children headed to nursing home may rise.
Dr. Lucy Cohen is a veteran special needs therapist who has treated Anabell.
“If the nursing hours become more restrictive, what will that end up meaning?” Gillen asked Cohen.
“You may see an upswing in the number of children going into nursing homes. Because families can’t physically emotionally provide the care that is required,” Cohen said.
“What can be the downside of children in nursing homes?” Gillen asked.
Cohen replied, “I don’t think that they get the same love that they would get by being in a family unit.”
Cuts have left Janna Montgomery with four hours of nursing care a day instead of 8. She continues to find help on weekends leaving Montgomery with the job of picking up Anabell alone.
“I injured myself,” Montgomery said. “I have four collapsed discs in my neck.”
A small price to pay, she says, when she pictures the alternative: her young daughter living among strangers.
Florida nursing homes are not required to do criminal background checks of the residents living there.
“I can barely stand it. One thing that you have to do when you have a child that’s disabled is of course protection — and for a female, for a girl, it’s so much more important,” Montgomery said.
At least one central Florida nursing home markets itself online by boasting of having an integrated community of elderly and medically fragile children living there.
Gillen asked Dietz, “Good idea in your opinion?”
“Scary idea in my opinion,” Dietz said.
Janna Montgomery says she wants the quality of her daughter’s life to be filled with beauty and love.
“It may not be a long life, but it could be a good life. And that’s what’s important,” Montgomery said.