Wednesday, April 6, 2011

UPDATED, APRIL 7: Foster care in Michigan: CPS plays “the muscle game”

To the surprise of absolutely no one familiar with how courts operate in these cases, in the case discussed in the previous post to this Blog, a judge in Detroit has rubber-stamped the institutionalization of Maryanne Godboldo’s daughter and her continued separation from her mother.

Lawyers for Godboldo are appealing. But for now, this means this 13-year-old girl, already in foster care five times longer than Leo Ratte, the upper-middle-class white child in the Mike’s Hard Lemonade case, will remain institutionalized indefinitely.

And what of the Detroit Free Press, which has lagged behind on the story? They finally produced something more than a news brief.  The Free Press, which rightly rushed to the defense of Leo Ratte and his college professor parents, showed no such sympathy for the child of a Black single mother.  On the contrary, not one person quoted in the story supported Ms. Godboldo’s position.

Instead, a CPS spokesman got four paragraphs to offer up the Disney version: We only take children when absolutely necessary, it’s a last resort, etc. etc.

The Free Press also quoted from the court order authorizing CPS to take away the children.  Among other things, the order says that “mother is in denial about her daughter’s mental health issue.”  (Yes, they still talk that way at CPS!)

As usual, The Detroit News had a more thorough story, including both sides.  Their story quotes a CPS supervisor as saying a total of four “referrals” had been made about the child.  It is quite possible, however, that three of them came from the same place – an institution where, Godboldo told WXYZ-TV, three separate employees had threatened to call CPS if she didn’t voluntarily admit her daughter.

But once again, it was Darrell Dawsey who first added real context to the story in his Blog for MLive Detroit, who advanced it once again today, with an interview with a doctor Godboldo turned to when psychiatric medication was making her child worse.  Here’s some of Dawsey’s column:

"She did what she was supposed to do," says Dr. Margaret Betts, a veteran Detroit MD who specializes in holistic treatments and who consulted with … Godboldo on alternative treatments for her child. "The treatment they recommended wasn't helping. Maryanne sought further medical attention. She acted like a good parent. It's a parent's right to choose." …

"The treatment she was using was helping her daughter much better than the treatment (Child Protective Services) had recommended," explains Dr. Betts, who's practiced medicine for 25 years, in an exclusive interview with MLive Detroit. .. 

“When the parent chose a different treatment,” says Dr. Betts, “CPS played a muscle game.”

So, just to review what either MLive Detroit, The Detroit News or WXYZ-TV have reported but which the Free Press omitted from today’s story:

● Maryanne Godboldo sought out medical treatment for her daughter in the first place.

●She agreed to give the child psychiatric medication.

●It was only after the medication worsened her daughter’s condition that she sought a second medical opinion from Dr. Betts.

●It was only after Dr. Betts said to do so that Ms. Godboldo started weaning her daughter off the psychiatric medication.

●Ms. Godboldo says the people who turned her in to CPS all work for an institution that demanded she admit her daughter.  It was when she refused that they called CPS.  Can you say “conflict of interest”?

And even if a case could be made to deny custody to the mother, what about the father?  According to the Detroit News story:

A lawyer for the girl's father, Mubuarak Hakim, also accused protective services of failing one of its mandates to keep families together by not trying to find the father or another relative with whom to place the girl. ...

The father's lawyer, Roger Farinha, said during the hearing that throughout her 13 days in state custody, the girl has still not been given the prescribed drug in question, and yet the authorities have said she has been stable in their care. "So maybe the mother was right," Farinha said.

In a classic example of the kind of hearsay that is standard operating procedure in these cases, the CPS supervisor claimed, however, that a counselor claimed the girl has become "agitated and aggressive" without her medications.  But apparently she wasnt on the medications before she was taken away, since thats why she was taken away in the first place.  And either way, if, in fact, the claim is true, it apparently occurred to neither the counselor nor the CPS supervisor that the girl may be "agitated and aggressive" because she is without her mother.

The choice here is between returning this child to the mother who loves her (or placing her with her father or another relative), vs. leaving her institutionalized and at the tender mercies of the Michigan child welfare system. The more you know about Michigan foster care, the easier it is to see why the best option is for Ms. Godboldo’s daughter to be freed from the institution immediately.