DETROIT — Frustration over her physically impaired daughter’s medical care led Maryanne Godboldo to lash out at what she considered state interference and into a 12-hour standoff when Detroit police came to take the girl away.
When it ended, the unemployed mother was in handcuffs; her daughter placed in a psychiatric hospital for children.
Godboldo now is locked in a bitter battle with Michigan’s Department of Human Services over her right to determine whether the girl should continue taking the anti-psychotic drug Risperdal and the government’s responsibility to look after the child’s welfare.
Godboldo doesn’t trust doctors much – she blames some of the girl’s past medical problems on possible physician negligence and complications from childhood immunizations, but did not name the doctors or release her daughter’s medical records to The Associated Press. She claims the girl has responded better to holistic treatment that does not include Risperdal.
But the state is not budging on its assertion that without the proper medication, Ariana is at risk.
“Our mandate is to go into court and prove there is medical neglect,” said Human Services Director Maura Corrigan, who declined to speak directly about Godboldo’s case due to the ongoing court proceedings.
“Is there harm to the child? That’s what we are trying to assess,” Corrigan told the AP in a recent interview.
A defiant Godboldo still believes she was right to defy police, despite five days in jail and criminal charges, including discharge of a firearm, three counts of assault with a dangerous weapon and resisting officers.
“I was in my home. Why should I come out? They were invading my home,” Godboldo said.
Citing the charges, Godboldo declined to say if she fired a gun when police arrived at her home March 24. But officers said a gun and about 43 rounds of live ammunition were in the house, and a spent shell casing was found after the standoff, according to court records. Ariana also was in the house.
“I would always be concerned with a parent who has a gun and is using it when a child is present because accidents happen,” said Oakland County Probate Court Judge Linda Hallmark, who isn’t connected to the case but handles child custody issues. “If a parent feels the child is going to be removed and there isn’t a basis for it, there are legal avenues that the parent needs to follow.”
Ariana already had her share of medical troubles when Godboldo started giving her Risperdal more than a year ago at a doctor’s suggestion. She had lost her right leg below the knee as an infant and wears a prosthesis. Godboldo claims she also developed encephalitis, or inflammation of the brain, before entering 6th grade.
She said her daughter complained often of being dizzy and had a hoarse voice, became more clingy and fearful, and avoided playing outside.
“It happened slowly at first, but it was enough to know when your child makes a change,” Godboldo said.
She sought help at a Detroit area center. Staff there put Ariana on a treatment plan that included Risperdal, said Allison Folmar, one of Godboldo’s attorneys.
Child Protective Services in its petition wrote that Ariana was diagnosed with “psychosis NOS,” or “not otherwise specified,” Folmar said.
“They are saying `it’s something going on in her head, but we don’t know what it is,'” the attorney added.
But Godboldo balked at a suggestion that her daughter be placed in a mental hospital. She took the girl’s treatment to another center. She also decided to wean her from Risperdal, which sometimes is used to treat schizophrenia.
“Ariana has some issues. She requires one-on-one attention,” said Folmar, describing how the girl at times appears unresponsive. But “she writes. She reads.”
Risperdal often is used to contain behaviors like aggression and even treat autism, said Derek H. Suite, a board certified psychiatrist and president and chief executive of Full Circle Health in the Bronx, N.Y. Risperdal use has shown dramatic reductions in psychotic symptoms, but there can be side-effects, he added.
“Sometimes kids can have neurological problems … muscular tics,” Suite said. “These drugs can slow you down.”
After Godboldo’s confrontation with police, Ariana spent about a month in a children’s psychiatric facility. She now is living with Godboldo’s sister, Penny. A judge has ordered that other adult relatives be present when Godboldo visits with her daughter.
But “to this day, there is not one court order saying give her the medication,” Folmar said. “No one has recommended giving the child the medication.”
It’s not unusual for parents and the state to be at odds over what’s best.
Two Idaho parents lost a civil lawsuit last year when a judge ruled their rights were not violated by an officer who took custody of their infant daughter so a doctor could check for signs of meningitis. Dale and Leilani Neumann of Wisconsin were convicted of reckless homicide following the 2008 death of their 11-year-old daughter, whose undiagnosed diabetes was treated with prayer instead of conventional medicine.
Godboldo said the state was not involved in the care of her daughter until she pursued a more holistic treatment. When asked by the AP what that entailed, she replied: “God’s medication.”
After Godboldo refused to attend a meeting with Child Protective Services, officers arrived at her home to remove Ariana. Godboldo claimed they never showed her a court order.
Detroit police declined to comment about the case “because of the litigation involved,” Sgt. Eren Stephens said in an email.
When Godboldo refused to allow police in, the officers tried to force their way through a side door but backed off after hearing a gun shot, court documents said.
“Maryann did not shoot at police and she did not fire a gun with any intention of scaring the police,” Folmar said. “But even if she did fire a so-called warning shot, right now the question is of self-defense.”