The children had frequent complaints of stomach aches and other maladies when they returned from their visitations with her, and medicines she had given them for what turned out to be phantom illnesses. Following up, the father found that the medicines were rarely really needed. But when confronted, she would become aggressive and threaten police action.
The court appointed psychologist wrote this about, the mother, Marianne Grin: “with respect to school frequency, the mother has demonstrated a bizarre and unpredictable behavior: she goes to pick up the children before the end of the lessons; she does not bring them to school, at times without valid reasons.” He also wrote “Considering the behavioral picture that emerges from all people that have had contact with the mother, we believe that there should be a new deep psychiatric evaluation of Ms. Grin, there being strong suspicions of a very gravely disturbed personality.
In a similar context of mental illness, the relationship of the mother with the children is of strong psycho pathological risk.”
After the abduction of the children by Ms. Grin, documents came to light revealing much of her behavior. She had been incessantly taking the children to the emergency room of the Meyer children’s hospital in Florence. So much so, that the Child Abuse Prevention group asked the police officer posted at the hospital to send a letter of concern to the Florence Prosecutor as well as the Prosecutor of the juvenile court. The family had long suspected Munchausen by Proxy Syndrome.
Munchausen by Proxy Syndrome is a form of factitious disorder and “is a mental illness in which a person acts as if an individual he or she is caring for has a physical or mental illness when the person is not really sick … Factitious disorders are considered mental illnesses because they are associated with severe emotional difficulties”. (Cleveland Clinic)
“Munchausen’s Syndrome is a disorder in which an individual repeatedly fakes or exaggerates their own illness or medical symptoms in order to manipulate the attentions of medical professionals or caregivers.
Munchausen by Proxy Syndrome is a similar syndrome in which another individual, commonly a child, is substituted for the patient and made the focus of inappropriate medical attention. In Munchausen by Proxy Syndrome, an individual – typically a mother [Statistically, 98% of the perpetrators are female] – deliberately makes another person (most often his or her own preschool child) sick or convinces others that the person is sick. The parent or caregiver misleads others into thinking that the child has medical problems by reporting fictitious episodes. He or she may exaggerate, fabricate, or induce symptoms. As a result, doctors commonly order tests, experiment with medications and, in severe cases, may hospitalize the child or perform surgery to determine the cause.” (From outofthefog.net)
This disorder is considered child abuse by the American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children, and is a crime. It is also recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders as a mental illness. “Munchausen syndrome by proxy is a complex form of child abuse in which an adult, usually a mother, creates the appearance that her child is ill by fabricating evidence and even by inducing symptoms in the child. A contemporary form of this syndrome occurs when the mother creates the appearance that the child has been abused by someone else, generally the father in a divorce and custody or visitation dispute.” (Deirdre Conway Rand http://www.ipt-forensics.com/journal/volume5/j5_3_1.htm#en0r)
“A significant number of experts believe that mothers with Munchausen syndrome by proxy have a borderline personality disorder. People with a borderline personality disorder have an abnormal pattern of thoughts and beliefs about themselves and other people. Their thought patterns and beliefs can make them behave in a way that others would find abnormal and disturbed.” (Medical News Today)
Eventually though, the Psychologists, Social Services, Meyer Hospital, doctors, the police, the Judges and everyone involved concluded that Ms. Grin was not fit to have custody of the children. The father was awarded sole and exclusive custody of all four children in December 2010, after 2 years of custody battles, many emergency room visits and false accusations.
When Ms. Grin lost custody, she did not stop the emergency room visits. On the contrary, they became more bizarre. She levied allegations against his family members, his lawyer, his new girlfriend, the children’s nanny of nine years, the court-appointed psychologist, and even the youngest son’s therapist. As a tactic, her frequent complaints, no matter how strange, inevitably slowed the divorce and custody process. This behavior is consistent with the contemporary-type Munchausen by Proxy Syndrome described by Deirdre Conway Rand … “As in classical cases, contemporary-type MSP is generally practiced by the mother who most often accuses the father in a divorce and custody or visitation dispute but who also may accuse the father’s new wife and her children or the father’s relatives.”
The straw that broke the camel’s back came in February 2011. She brought one of the children to the emergency room and had him declare that his father had forced him to stand outside on a terrace “for 10 minutes after a verbal argument,” and that “he had ordered him to come down out of a tree house early one morning..”
This was the incident that prompted the authorities at the emergency room, unaware that the father had already been awarded sole custody, to suggest the children be moved into an environment away from their mother.
Looks like a text book case, right? Except that in Italy the authorities are reluctant even in extreme cases to take children away from mothers and the judicial process is slow and easily manipulated by false accusations. Deirdre Conway Rand says “In today’s climate, the accusation that a child has been abused or molested is accepted at face value, with little, if any, effort made to distinguish between true and false allegations. The energy of the authorities is directed towards keeping the accused away from the child and punishing the accused whenever possible … This makes it relatively easy for divorced parents, who are either unscrupulous or blinded by their own emotional needs, to enlist the aid of the authorities in supporting a false abuse scenario.”
When a mother loses custody and is deemed a danger to her children, the standard recommendations are of “supervised visits for the mother and children. Such visitations are usually supervised by a psychologist…” (Deirdre Conway Rand)
Supervised visitations were not awarded, but at least in the care of the father, the 3 youngest children all improved psychologically as well as scholastically, both in attendance and in performance. This was confirmed by their grades, by their teachers’ reports, by reports provided to the courts by Social Services who monitored the family, and confirmed by the court-appointed psychologist. By contrast, the eldest, who unfortunately remained with his mother, missed about half the school year and failed.
As the courts did not mandate supervised visitation, Ms. Grin was able to kidnap them to Russia, they have no family to protect them. Marianne Grin knows that everyone around her concludes, as the court-appointed psychologist said, she is a danger to the children, and for this reason is preventing any contact not just with the father, but any of the children’s family, their friends, including her own mother, the children’s maternal grandmother, and she is denying them access to any form of communication, whether phone, internet, or social media that they used to have. Ms. Grin must be afraid that if the children are able to communicate with the rest of the world, she will be shown to be, as the judge said, an inadequate parent.
Keeping the children silent is not right.
In order to ensure the children have adequate care and protect them from their mother’s illnesses, the father went to Russia and organized a plan with a local pediatrician and private hospital where Ms. Grin can take the children at his expense. Ms. Grin rejected this, stating she does not wish to have the father involved in her decisions to medically treat the children. Indeed, immediately after the abduction, the father learned that Ms. Grin had an operation performed on the 5 year old in Russia, and she has not said what the operation was for.
While the father was in Russia, Ms. Grin kept the children hidden and refused to let him see them. She also told him she would continue to refuse him the divorce in Italy.
These children need to be saved, the longer it takes the more at risk they are!
We hope the Italian authorities are taking this seriously and are doing all possible to help get these kids back home as fast as possible.