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All criminal charges were dismissed against Maryanne Godboldo yesterday.  That ends the latest chapter in the continuing saga of how county child protective services, supported by police and S.W.A.T. agents came to take her 13-year-old daughter into care and arrest Godboldo.  Here's the most recent article (Free Press, 8/29/11). The story is yet another in a long line about gross overreaching by CPS caseworkers, but Godboldo's is worse than most.  Godboldo's daughter has some form of emotional/psychological problem.  Godboldo had her on medication for a while, but it seemed to make he symptoms worse, so, in consultation with the girls pediatrician, Godboldo weaned her from the powerful psychotropic drug. That displeased CPS which went to court for an order taking the child into care.  CPS did that on an emergency basis, meaning that Godboldo wasn't present at the hearing to tell her side of the story.  Out of the blue one day, CPS caseworkers showed up at Godboldo's door to inform her that they were taking her child.  Godboldo refused, believing that (a) she knew more about how to care for her daughter than did the caseworkers and (b) as the girl's parent, she had the right to do so. Met with Godboldo's manifestly correct assertion of her parental rights, what did CPS do?  Did it schedule another hearing so a judge could hear Godboldo's point of view and issue an order?  No.  It doubled down. CPS presented the court order it already had to the police who sent the S.W.A.T. team complete with a tank to threaten Godboldo.  That did the trick.  Police got the child away from her mother and whisked her off to a psychiatric facility.  Claiming she had fired a pistol at them, police whisked Godboldo to jail where she was charged with several felonies. My guess is that pretty much any impartial observer schooled in the ways of CPS would have smelled a rat by then.  I know I did.  And sure enough, ever since the day of the original incident, more and more of the rodents keep turning up. First was the fact that the mental health facility to which the girl was taken by CPS declined to give her the very medication Godboldo had declined to give her.  Godboldo's refusal to give the drug was the reason (or the excuse) for the court's order in the first place.  So, many of us found it noteworthy that the mental health professionals at that facility apparently agreed with Godboldo.  In the end, it was only CPS caseworkers whose medical judgment differed from that of professionals treating the girl. Now we know there were a couple of other minor glitches in the way CPS and the police handled the case.  First is the little matter of the court order.  It's completely invalid and should never have been used by the police to raid Godboldo's home.  Why was it invalid?  It wasn't issued by a judge.
[Godboldo's attorneys] said the court order was not valid because a court clerk stamped the judge's name to the order without consulting the judge.
"A judge never looked at this, never saw it," Pitts said. "It has to be an elected authority. This lady took the judge's stamp, stamped the judge's name and off she goes."
Well, doesn't that open a window on how CPS operates.  What that suggests is that there was never even a hearing to obtain the order.  After all, if there had been hearing, the judge him/herself would have simply signed the order.  But no.  It seems that up to now it's been common practice for CPS to have their pre-typed order stamped with the judge's signature stamp. That certainly streamlines the process, but it's far, far from a constitutional way to deprive a mother of her parental rights. So the entire process was illegal from the start. Likewise, it now seems the police were a little short of evidence for their claim that Godboldo took a shot at them.  The judge dismissed the charges against her citing lack of evidence.  Godboldo's lawyers are a bit more pointed.
Folmar said Godboldo "never shot at an officer -- period. It never happened."
Just last week, police got a warrant to search Godboldo's home for evidence of the alleged pistol shot.  That looked like desperation on their part to me.  After all, don't you think they looked for evidence when they first took Godboldo and her daughter away?  If they didn't find it then, why did they think they'd find it a second time?  In the event, they found it neither time. We're getting to the endgame in the Maryanne Godboldo case and it's taught us a lot.  It's taught us the extent to which CPS can and does take the law into its own hands.  CPS differed with the girl's mother about her medication.  There is no way that constitutes abuse or neglect of the child absent some clear evidence given by mental health professionals. So the initial decision to go after Godboldo's daughter was the product of a mindset that has no understanding of parental rights.  In this country, under our constitution, parents get to raise their kids as they see fit.  Yes there are limitations on what they can and can't do and withholding medication can be one of those prohibited activities. But the decision to intervene and force medical treatment on a child when a parent disagrees can only be taken after careful due process of law.  It is that above all that Maryanne Godboldo and her mentally ill daughter were denied. Far worse, it is crystal clear that denial of due process of law is commonplace when CPS chooses to take action against a parent.  The whole case reeks of highhandedness, yes, but of entitlement as well.  No agency with much respect for parental rights or due process of law would have behaved the way CPS did in this case.  Face it, they've gone to Juvenile Court before, handed the clerk an order and gotten it stamped with the judge's signature stamp.  They've done it many times, so many that it simply never occurred to them that there was anything wrong with what they were doing.  Don't believe me?
As a result of this case, Pitts said, there has been a policy change. Court employees are no longer allowed to stamp judges' names on court orders.
The only difference between this case and all the others is that this time they got caught. So Maryanne Godboldo is free, the CPS habit of having court clerks stamp their orders is a thing of the past and the case slouches to a close.  Godboldo still doesn't have her daughter back, but I suspect that will happen in due course.  The girl has been in the care of her aunt, Godboldo's sister, so I don't imagine Mom is having too much difficulty being with her daughter. Soon will come the inevitable lawsuit that I predict will go favorably to Godboldo.  Finally, the county will pay Godboldo a hefty sum for the multiple wrongs perpetrated against her and her daughter.  How much of that will be paid by taxpayers remains to be seen. Sadly, this case is no more outrageous than countless others against countless parents and children nationwide.  We don't always hear about them, but they, like this one are products of a broken system, a system that believes that governmental employees are better equipped and better motivated than parents to decide matters of children's welfare.  It's a dangerous system; it's a system that needs to be changed.

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