Friday, April 22, 2011

Detroit Child Taken by the State Could Be Released to Relatives

April 22, 2011

Girl in Detroit standoff could be released to relatives

The Detroit News

Detroit — A judge announced a plan today 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 psychotropic drugs.

Wayne County Circuit Court Juvenile Division Judge Lynne Pierce gave two weeks to doctors representing the state and the family of Ariana Godboldo to work out a treatment plan for the 13-year-old that officials and the family can both agree on.

The girl was placed in the mental health facility last month by child welfare workers after a police standoff with her mother, Maryanne Godboldo, 56.

"I am assuming the doctors will be able to reach a joint treatment program where Ariana will be able to receive treatment in a home setting," Pierce said this morning after a lengthy private meeting in her chambers with lawyers representing the state and the girl's parents, Godboldo and Mubarak Hakim, 58.

Authorities say the girl is suffering from an undiagnosed psychiatric disorder, perhaps childhood onset of schizophrenia. Her mother believes Ariana's troubles started in September 2009 with a bad reaction to childhood immunizations.

Godboldo has also said the drug being used to control her symptoms appeared to make her worse.

Godboldo faces criminal charges of assault, hindering and opposing police officers for a 12-hour siege March 25. During the standoff, a shot allegedly was fired when she refused entrance to Wayne County Protective Services workers who had come to take the child from her west-side home.

Under today'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 Ariana from the anti-psychotic drug Risperdal.

The judge said the plan has to win approval from the child's court-appointed lawyer, and she ordered child welfare workers to expedite placement of the girl with her aunt, Penny Godboldo, a Marygrove College dance instructor.

"I still don't understand why she can't be with her mother, but I will be as pleased as an aunt can be to take her," Penny Godboldo said today.

Hakim said he was satisfied with the arrangement "so far."

Maryanne Godbolo said she had based her decision to withdraw the use of Risperdal on an "informed consent" agreement, signed last year by herself and her daughter's psychiatrist.

The agreement states she has the right to stop the drug at any time, and the document was expected to be a key piece of evidence in a hearing set for today. During the hearing, lawyers were to argue the validity of the "medical emergency" petition that Protective Services workers used to take the girl by force.

There was no discussion in court today about the motions defense lawyers had filed to challenge the petition. The judge instead announced the agreement on building a joint treatment plan.

"I'm sure Dr. Betts will be able to satisfy what I am looking for," Maryanne Godboldo said, "for her to be healthy and under the genuine care of someone concerned about the child, not just the dollar signs."

The case has drawn the nationwide attention of groups concerned about the safety of childhood immunizations and the use of psychotropic drugs, as well as those opposed to government intrusion on personal decisions.

Although the judge has set trial on the neglect complaints for June, she said she would hold another hearing sooner if authorities fail to put a treatment plan in place and obtain a medical discharge to let the girl go to her aunt's home.

The criminal charges against Godboldo were put on hold by a 36th District Court judge, pending an expected Michigan Supreme Court ruling in a similar case that could define a citizen's right to oppose police who improperly enter a home.

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