Published: Dec 06, 2013 6:56 PM EST

MIAMI (AP) - A federal court judge has agreed to consolidate two lawsuits accusing the state of unnecessarily institutionalizing about 200 disabled children in nursing homes and cutting services that would allow them to receive care at home.
    
U.S. District Judge Robin Rosenbaum ruled Friday to combine a case brought by the U.S. Justice Department with a similar case filed on behalf of several Florida children and their guardians.
    
Federal investigators contend the children could benefit from care at home or elsewhere in the community. The lawsuits note the children are not exposed to social, educational or recreational activities critical to development.
    
The state has repeatedly said it pays for all medically necessary services for children and that parents ultimately make the decision.
    
Parents say they have no other option because the state has slashed in-homes services.

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