In 2010 the world met Jani Schofield a young girl diagnosed with child on-set schizophrenia. Discovery Life featured the family in a several part series. Oprah and Dr. Phil interviewed the family for follow-ups in 2012. Since 2012 the family remained out of the spotlight. However, a new appearance on Dr. Phil this week exposed the family, specifically the mother Susan, in a new light that has many questioning if she suffers from Munchausen-by-proxy and whether she is abusing her children for fame and money.
The original docuseries on Discovery Life titled “Born Schizophrenic” followed the journey of a young girl in California living with the disorder. Her parents, Michael and Susan, gave viewers an inside view into the mind of a child with psychosis and hallucinations.
Jani appeared to be a lively young girl with a creative imagination and hyperactive personality. According to her parents, her hallucinations made her violent and required the family to have to live in separate apartments to protect their young son, Bodhi, from Jani’s explosive behavior.
The last time most people saw the family, the couple expressed their concerns about Bodhi. Susan believed her young son also exhibited signs of schizophrenia and had received a diagnosis of autism.
After the 2012 updates on the family, they fell back into obscurity. Susan used her newly found fame to start a non-profit called Jani’s Foundation. She created a YouTube channel and she shared videos of her children. Additionally, she used Facebook to update her 5,000 friends.
During this time, Michael and Susan’s marriage fell apart. Michael admitted to Dr. Phil that he was unfaithful multiple times. The extra-marital affairs completely fractured the union and the couple divorced. Following the divorce, Michael remarried and moved 1800 miles away to Minnesota to be with his new wife.
Susan and the kids remained in California. The couple shares joint physical and legal custody of the children, but Susan will not allow the children to leave the state. As a result, Michael’s involvement with his children is limited to daily phone calls with Jani and bi-monthly visits.
Despite the lack of media exposure, Susan continued her advocacy for her children. She created a YouTube channel, which is no longer up, and uploaded nearly 200 videos of her children.
Quickly, individuals on YouTube began to express concern about the content Susan shared on her channel. In several videos, the children are found in vulnerable and private moments which should not be for public eyes. However, Susan said she used the channel to show the world the reality of what it is like to raise two children with severe mental illnesses.
In one video, Susan walks in on Bodhi, now 11, sitting on the toilet going to the bathroom. Instead of allowing him privacy, she is heard asking him questions and attempting to engage with him.
Another troubling video she shared was of Bodhi in the shower. During the video, Susan walks into the bathroom and films her son taking a shower. She cheers him on for doing something for himself. However, viewers of the video found the content an invasion of privacy.
Other videos depict both children extremely medicated. In some of the videos, Bodhi is unable to speak, drools, and stares upward. One of these videos was shown on Dr. Phil. Susan barks at Bodhi to tell her what medication he needs to feel better. However, Bodhi doesn’t reply and seems to be in a transient seizure.
Susan shares on social media all of the medications she has Bodhi on. She has been attempting to get him on a cocktail of mood stabilizers and anti-psychotics for years. On Facebook, she consistently shares about her desire for Bodhi to be on a cocktail of Thorazine, Lithium, and Clorazil.
A subreddit dedicated to exposing the family and Susan’s abuse of the children compiled a list timeline of the medications and doses for Bodhi.
The three-drug cocktail Susan believes her son needs are older pharmaceuticals that are only used as last-ditch efforts for people with unmanageable psychosis or schizophrenia.
Clozaril has a black box warning because the drug can cause seizures, bradycardia, severe neutropenia, and hypotension. Severe neutropenia can lead to serious infections and death. Because the drug can affect neutrophils in white blood cells, regular blood draws are needed to monitor neutrophil levels.
While the amount of drugs he is on is troubling, most concerning is that Bodhi does not have a diagnosis of Schizophrenia. Susan admitted on Dr. Phil she has been unable to get the formal diagnosis for her son even though she’s taken him to over 50 doctors.
When Dr. Phil and her ex-husband Michael pushed back on her “doctor shopping,” Susan defended herself by saying that the disorder is hard to diagnose and all the doctors are in a conspiracy against her.
On social media, Susan plays the victim card well. She consistently discusses the conspiracy that UCLA doctors are withholding the proper diagnosis from Bodhi. Susan says the director of the UCLA program has trained the entire staff and therefore none of them are objective and capable of diagnosing her son.
However, Susan also admits to taking her son to Stanford in Northern California for a mental health evaluation. Doctors at Stanford, unaffiliated with UCLA, did not diagnose Bodhi with Schizophrenia. According to Susan, Bodhi is diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder and psychosis.
Michael believes that Bodhi is not psychotic and should not be on any of the medications that Susan wants him on. On Dr. Phil, he expressed concern that Susan might have Munchausen-By-Proxy. Dr. Phil and another guest associated with the Department of Family and Child Services echoed Michael’s fears about Susan making her children worse.
Dr. Phil and Dr. Charles Sophy both told Susan that until she “stops the noise around her children,” they will never get well. In fact, Dr. Sophy said that he believed that Susan was the one that needed mental health help and not her children. Both men thought that Susan doctor shopped and overmedicated her son. Susan admitted to Dr. Phil that she is bi-polar and does not take medication.
To mediate between Michael and Susan, Dr. Phil offered to assemble a team to help diagnosis Bodhi at a clinic in Texas. Dr. Phil’s only stipulation was that Susan needed to take down her YouTube channel. He told her that he did not want to be affiliated with a channel that he felt exploited her children.
Dr. Phil seemed to find a compromise to help alleviate Michael’s concerns and to provide Susan with a team to evaluate Bodhi.
However, Susan’s reasons for going on the Dr. Phil show were not to help Bodhi. Instead, she shared on Facebook she wanted to expose the failure of the mental health industry and further her career.
To gain insight into Susan and Cory’s mindset leading up to the Dr. Phil show, I spoke with Cory’s adult daughter Kelli. Kelli provided me with screenshots of her father telling her about their upcoming appearance on Dr. Phil. Cory admitted to his daughter that the couple was motivated to gain publicity for their YouTube account, boost Susan’s book sales, and help launch a pilot tv show Susan has written about her life.
Therefore, the agreement she made with Dr. Phil may have been made to soften the audience’s reaction to her behavior. Before she agreed to take down the YouTube channel, the audience booed Susan as she walked off the stage.
Her YouTube channel had thousands of subscribers. Michael noted on the show that Susan makes income off ads that run on the channel’s videos. By shutting down the channel, Michael estimated that she will lose out on around $1,000.00 per month.
Since the show, Susan has removed the YouTube account. However, she continues to post videos and updates on her Facebook profile. Nearly all of her updates are posted publically. While she claims that she is on-board with going to Texas for Bohdi’s care, she has also made numerous comments about Bohdi not being medically cleared for travel.
So the question remains around Susan’s role in making her children sick. Does she exhibit signs of Munchausen By-Proxy? The straight answer is that some of her behaviors are concerning.
- She admits to doctor shopping
- She is obsessed with having her son on a cocktail of antipsychotics when he doesn’t have a diagnosis of schizophrenia
- Her children appear heavily medicated in videos
- Susan spends a lot of time online posting videos, sharing “emergencies,” and researching mental illness
- Michael says that Susan directly benefits by her children being unwell because of disability income she makes through the state and Federal government
The only way to determine if a child is suffering from MBP is by removing the child from the care of their primary caregiver. If authorities or social workers are genuinely concerned, putting the children with a temporary guardian can answer some of those questions. Children that are not genuinely sick will improve when you remove the parent from the situation.
Unfortunately, CPS has never removed the children. Susan admits to having on-going cases with CPS workers, but the agency continues to allow her to have custody. The independent evaluation in Texas may be the only chance to see what role Susan plays in Bodhi’s symptoms.
After spending hours sifting through Susan’s videos and Facebook posts, I do believe her untreated mental illness may be negatively impacting her children. She seems to want to medicate her son, who has autism, to “fix” him rather than accept the fact that his disorder cannot be fixed with medication.
Most children with autism do not require medication. There are no medications that can “fix” autism. Instead, children with autism need parents that are patient, therapy to help with behavior, and special education to adapt and accommodate their learning.
The only way we will ever learn the truth is if someone is brave enough to separate her from her children long enough for doctors to evaluate the kids properly. Unless that happens, we will never know if she is abusing the children.
CPS it’s time to step in and help these kids!
Visit the Subreddit which houses all the details about Susan’s “alleged” abuse and exploitation of the children.
*Katie Joy is a columnist and hosts Without A Crystal Ball on Patheos Non-Religious Channel. She writes articles on parenting, disability advocacy, debunking pseudoscience, atheism, and crimes against women and children.
She co-hosts the YouTube show, “The Smoking Nun,” with Kyle Curtis. The show airs weekly and tackles pseudoscience, current events, and crime stories.
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