Ohio: county yanks obese child from family

by Walter Olson on November 29, 2011

“An 8-year-old Cleveland Heights boy was taken from his family and placed in foster care last month after county case workers said his mother wasn’t doing enough to control his weight.” Lawyers for the mother of the >200-lb. boy “think the county has overreached in this case by arguing that medical conditions the boy is at risk for — but doesn’t yet have — pose an imminent danger to his health.” The county claims that the mother has ignored doctor’s orders, which she denies. [Rachel Dissell, Cleveland Plain Dealer; see correction on weight in comments]

P.S. As several press accounts note, the issue has been building for a while, notably this summer when Harvard researchers published a piece in JAMA calling for wider removal of obese children from homes.

{ 12 comments }

1 gasman 11.29.11 at 8:05 am

The linked article notes his weight as 200 pounds, not 300 as Walter states.

Still 200 is a lot on any 8 year old. Dismissing his health problems as ONLY being sleep apnea is a bit of an understatement. Sleep apnea under this circumstance is very likely to lead to pulmonary hypertension and right heart failure. Successful use of CPAP devices in kids is notoriously poor, so characterizing CPAP use as a therapeutic success is a stretch as well.
Medical neglect can be difficult to define sometimes. In the case of obesity, it isn’t the weight or BMI that should be the trigger, but the objective results; CPAP using sleep apnea is a severe enough condition that if resulting from the environment is likely sufficient to consider removal, if other efforts have failed.

2 Walter Olson 11.29.11 at 8:12 am

Thanks for the correction, which I’ve now fixed in text. I had based the first weight number on an earlier (and evidently erroneous) news report.

3 spo 11.29.11 at 9:47 am

It’s patently obvious that there is a problem here. A couple of things–why is the boy only getting to see his mother for 2 hours a week? Second, given all the abuses by various child protective services agencies around the nation, it’s fair to ask whether this intervention is in the best interests of the child. I don’t think that most of these agencies have a “we broke it, we bought it” attitude–meaning that they don’t hold themselves accountable for outcomes.

4 spo 11.29.11 at 9:48 am

The problem, of course, is that there is an 8 year old who weighs 200lbs, which is clearly a risk to his long-term health.

5 Ron Miller 11.29.11 at 10:38 am

You can have a 200 pound child because you neglect the child. The problem could also be parental neglect to a serious health condition. Which one are we dealing with here? None of us know. But I’m inclined to defer to child protective services without any other evidence.

6 BG 11.29.11 at 10:40 am

No one disputes the child needs to lose weight but there are real problems with the county providing services to foster parents that were never offered to the boy’s single mother. A bit of an analysis here.
http://www.nccprblog.org/2011/11/foster-care-in-cleveland-did-plain.html

Seems to me it would be a good idea to leave the child in his home and provide services there and skip the payments to the foster parent (who doesn’t have enough time to get this kid to his many appointments, and one is also left wondering how much school this honor roll kid is missing for his county appointments.)

7 John Burgess 11.29.11 at 11:25 am

I’ve mixed feeling on this. As a 10-11 y/o, I weighed close to 250lbs. When I hit puberty, I shed over 100 of those pounds in just over a year.

I maintained the lower weight for better than 40 years, slowing gaining weight as I aged and led a less active life. I’m now pushing 190 on a 5’10″ frame, heavier than I should be, but not about to fall over dead.

8 blhlls 11.29.11 at 2:49 pm

Unfortunately, funds may be available to provide services while the child is in foster care which are not available for the same services if he is not in foster care.

9 No Name Guy 11.29.11 at 5:50 pm

And from the opposite extreme – these parents were deliberately starving their kids to keep them from “getting fat”. The sick couple permanently lost custody of the 3 children they had, but she’s pregnant with another. I hope they take that child immediately upon birth.

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2016882590_labberton29m.html

In regards the topic case of this thread: Hard to say without more facts. Does the child have a metabolism / hormone issue? As stated in the article, what is the role of genetics in this particular case? The article indicates that the child in question was losing weight, but then started regaining it. The mother stated that the other kids started giving the child in question food outside of the supervised amounts. What role did that play in the weight gain?

10 John Cunningham 11.29.11 at 8:44 pm

Logically, if the child was taken from the parents for their failure to reduce his weight, a failure to lose weight under foster care should result in the termination of t he foster parents and the firing of the social workers overseeing the process.

11 Ron Miller 11.29.11 at 9:12 pm

I’m not sure why it follows that you would fire the social workers in that hypothetical, John.

12 LisaMarie 11.30.11 at 11:49 am

I dunno Ron, it makes sense. By taking the kid away, they are putting this at the same level of severity as, say, beating your kid. If social workers take a kid out of a home where they are being beaten and put them in a foster home where the foster parents beat them, they may well deserve to be fired.

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