Update: Doctors to Decide Home Treatment for Godboldo’s Daughter

If you’ve followed the  Maryanne Godboldo case, read this article (Detroit News, 4/23/11).  While you’re at it, see if the question “why didn’t this happen in the first place?” doesn’t occur to you.  I know it did to me.

Godboldo is the Detroit single mother who thought she actually knew best how to raise her 13-year-old daughter.  As it turns out, she’s probably right.  But in the meantime, she was faced with a decision about whether to continue giving the girl Risperdal which is a medication to treat schizophrenia.

Now, every article that comes out about this case adds new information about what led up to the child being taken by the state from her Godboldo’s care.  At first we were told Godboldo refused to give the medication.  Then we were told she had given it but believed it made the girl’s condition worse.  Now we’re told that she was weaning her off the medication in consultation with her daughter’s psychiatrist who agreed in writing that Godboldo could stop the medication any time she wanted.

But we knew little of that when Child Protective Services went to court without Godboldo’s knowledge and obtained an order for the mother to turn over the child because of her refusal to give her Risperdal.  CPS then showed up at Godboldo’s door with the surprise order with which she understandably refused to comply. 

So CPS called the police who sent the SWAT team replete with a tank, all because a mother, with the approval of her daughter’s psychiatrist, didn’t want the girl taking a particular psychotropic medication.

As if all that weren’t enough, once the police had wrested the girl from her mother, she was sent to a psychiatric facility where, two weeks later, she still hadn’t received the medication and doctors said her condition was stable.  That’s why I said earlier that it looks like Godboldo was not only within her rights, but had actually made the right decision.

That brings us up to date.  The article informs us that now,

A judge announced a plan Friday to get a Detroit girl back into the care of relatives and out of a state mental health facility after a dispute over her mother’s refusal to keep giving her prescribed drugs.

Judge Lynne Pierce of the Wayne County Circuit Court Juvenile Division gave doctors representing the state and the family of the 13-year-old two weeks to work out a treatment plan for her…

“I am assuming the doctors will be able to reach a joint treatment program where (the teen) will be able to receive treatment in a home setting,” Pierce said after a lengthy private meeting in her chambers with lawyers representing the state and the girl’s parents, Godboldo and Mubarak Hakim…

Under Friday’s order, the doctors representing the state and the girl’s family were ordered to meet within a week to begin work on a treatment plan. The doctors are George Mellos, director of a state facility for mentally ill youths, and family physician Margaret Betts, who had been helping wean the girl from the anti-psychotic drug Risperdal.

In other words, two sets of doctors will get together and agree on a plan for the girl’s care to be followed while she’s at home with her mother or another relative.

So we’re back to my original question, “why didn’t this happen in the first place?”  Would it have been so hard for CPS, instead of rushing to court for an ex parte order to take the girl from her parent and her home, to have told Godboldo that they thought she should give the girl Risperdal?  When Mom disagreed, they could have gone to court and asked the same doctors who are now involved to come up with a plan for the girl’s care.  Simple.

At least compared to what actually happened it’s simple.  No ex parte orders, no police, no SWAT team, no felony charges against the mother, no community outrage, no wrenching a child with psychiatric problems from her mother and home would have occurred.  One court hearing – maybe two – would have solved the whole thing.

Here’s a wild guess on my part: that question – “why didn’t this happen in the first place?” – will be the core of a civil suit filed against CPS by Godboldo.

I’ve said it before; this is what so often happens when individuals confront state power – all hell breaks loose.  And it seems to matter little what the simple, sensible thing to do might be.

Even now, Godboldo doesn’t have her daughter back.  She’s to stay with an aunt for the time being although no one seems to know why Mom doesn’t have custody.  What’s she done wrong?  Yes, there’s an allegation that she discharged a pistol while the SWAT team was breaking down her door.

That would be a serious issue if it happened and not to be taken lightly.  But so far it’s nothing more than an allegation and is presumed innocent.  Other charges against her stem mostly from her assertion of her parental rights.  My guess is that those will be dismissed soon enough.

I’ve said it before: the breakdown of the family has opened the door to state intervention in what once were considered family matters and parental decisions.  This case shows it about as well as any.  A mother, along with her daughter’s psychiatrist, decides how best to treat her daughter’s mental condition.  The state disagrees and takes the child by force, parental rights be damned.

CPS was wrong about the medication, but the far greater wrong was its decision to rush to court without notice to the parent.  But states give child welfare agencies those powers and, once given, you can count on them being used.  ‘Twas ever thus.

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