There's a lot we don't yet know about this case, but much of what we do know is troubling. The case is garnering national attention and the mother is getting support from all quarters, left and right. That alone tells us a lot about people's response to child welfare agencies. In short, there's a lot of distrust directed by parents at CPS caseworkers and organizations.
one article (CBS Detroit
, 4/2/11). And here's
another (Detroit News
The story is of Maryanne Godboldo. She's a 56-year old mother with a 13-year-old daughter. The girl seems to have mental and physical problems, although those are so far unidentified. Apparently, the problems were either caused or exacerbated by a "cocktail" of immunization drugs she was required to take in order to enter public school. Godboldo had been home-schooling her prior to that.
That was last year. This year, apparently Godboldo was told to give the girl a certain psychotropic medication called Risperdal. According to her attorney, Mom did her homework and opted not to give the prescribed medication.
The next thing she knew, CPS appeared at her door with a court order allowing them to take the girl away from her mother and into some sort of foster care, where, presumably, she'd receive the medication.
Now, when I say that "CPS appeared at her door," that's exactly what I mean. Godboldo apparently had no knowledge that there was anything amiss, or that CPS had gone to Fort Wayne County court and gotten the order with no notice to the girl or her mother.
And that's the first thing that's troubling about this case. After all, I wrote just a few days ago about a Texas judge who's righteously angry at his local CPS for coming into his court without notifying the parents and misrepresenting certain facts of a case in order to get him to sign an order taking children from their parents.
He ordered CPS to pay over $30,000 in the parents' attorneys fees. He also ordered the caseworker and supervisor to write essays demonstrating that they understand Texas law concerning removing children from their parents.
My question is, "why didn't Godboldo get an opportunity to go to court and explain, perhaps with the assistance of medical experts, why she didn't want her daughter to take the prescribed medication?" Was the child in such danger that a few hours or days couldn't have been spared?
Or was this simply a case in which CPS did what it did because it knew it could? After all, it's far easier for CPS to get an order if there's no pesky parent there to oppose it. So rather than go to the inconvenience of due process of law, the agency flexed its muscles. Managers there know what kind of power they have and the used it. That's my guess, anyway.
That's not to say that what Godboldo did when CPS showed up was right, though. She refused to let her daughter go with CPS and, when the police showed up and broke down her door, she may or may not have fired a pistol. Whatever the case, she's now charged with five felony counts of resisting arrest, assault, discharging a firearm, etc.
Godboldo is now out on bail, but her daughter is where CPS wanted her in the first place, Northville psychiatric services agency.
Meanwhile, Godboldo's encounter with CPS has touched a nerve with people across the country.
Ron Scott with the Justice Committee said the focus is about parental rights and they have been getting support from all over.
"It"s been unbelievable. People from all over the world have called. It"s everyone from the far right to the far left and everybody in between, who have come together to say, this mother stood her ground to reflect the rights that every parent should have,' Scott said.
Godboldo's attorney echoed the sentiment that many of those people have expressed.
Her attorney, Allison Folmar, said CPS was over-stepping their boundaries when they showed up at Godboldo"s home to take away her child.
"My client is a mother who was protecting her child, against CPS who is acting, over-reaching and outside the scope of their authority. You cannot superimpose your will to give a child Risperdal, which is a psychotropic medication,' Folmar said.
I've said it before and I'll say it again, there's great unease about turning over parenting decisions to governmental officials. Whether CPS overstepped its bounds in this case, I don't yet know, but I suspect it did. But the publicity this case has received and the response by parents stand as mute testimony to the deep concerns many people have about the amount of authority child welfare agencies assert over parents and children.
Put simply, if you have a child, the least allegation against you whether founded or not, can plant the CPS boot firmly in your doorway. And once it's there, it's hard to remove it.
Not only that, but consider: parenting is more than just a series of decisions about what clothes to buy, what food to give the child, what school the child should attend. It's a relationship between two human beings. And like all such relationships, it depends on trust. It also assumes that, whatever happens, the parent will be there for the child tomorrow and the next day and the next.
By contrast, governmental agencies, be they courts or child welfare agencies make decisions. They don't have ongoing relationships with children and they haven't taken the time or gone to the effort to establish trust on the child's part. That's not their job.
So when they step in the middle of a family by second-guessing the parent, they tend to undermine the trust that's been built up between parent and child. Their presence unavoidably means they think the parent erred; children over a certain age get that.
Moreover, CPS workers don't have to concern themselves with maintaining the trust of the children they deal with the way parents do. Their obligations are to CPS protocols, supervisor's dictates and keeping their jobs. This is not to say they don't care about the parents and children they deal with; many of them surely do.
But they have no lingering bonds and that means their level of responsibility is lower than parents'.
All that is to say that CPS caseworkers should be more careful about the exercise of their power, not less. Ex parte
orders and unannounced visits to parents with surprise orders to take their children are not the way to do that.
Thanks to Lloyd for the heads-up.