The Plain Dealer‘s Cleveland.com site and other media outlets report today that a 200-pound eight-year-old has been removed from his Cleveland Heights, Ohio home and placed into foster care due to an alleged failure by his mother to follow doctor’s orders to address his obesity.
According to The Plain Dealer report, the child originally came to the attention of Cuyahoga county social workers after his mother sought medical attention for his sleep apnea, a weight-related condition. He was monitored by the county for a year under “protective supervision,” during which time his mother agreed to enroll him in a weight reduction program at Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital.
While the child’s obesity no doubt places him at increased risk of obesity-related diseases down the road, he reportedly has no such conditions now and is, according to the public defender assigned to his case, “a normal elementary school student who was on the honor roll and participated in school activities.”
Earlier this year we discussed this very issue (“Should Parents Lose Custody of Morbidly Obese Children?“) after a highly controversial opinion piece by Dr. David Ludwig appeared in the Journal of the American Medical Association arguing that in cases of life-threatening childhood obesity, the state should intervene and place the child in foster care. That Lunch Tray post generated a lot of reader response, and fellow blogger Brianne DeRosa of Red, Round or Green was inspired to write her own passionate argument against foster care in such cases, which I encourage you to read (“The News Item I Can’t Shake“).
As I wrote in my original post about the JAMA opinion piece
I can envision cases where the risk of death from obesity-related diseases might well be imminent, and in those very, very rare cases, I believe state intervention for overfeeding woud be as appropriate as for the starvation of a child. But those cases would be the clear exception to the rule. In the vast majority of cases, no doubt the trauma of separating parent and child would far exceed the possible benefits of foster care and, of course, it’s not even clear that foster care would be beneficial in all cases.
Reading the Plain Dealer account (and of course, I have no facts to draw on outside of those in media reports), this certainly does not seem to be a case in which a child’s life is in imminent danger. Indeed, if the mother’s statements are true, it sounds as though she is struggling, as so many parents are, to address what is a multi-faceted and often devilishly intractable problem.
A court date is set for next month (on the child’s 9th birthday) to resolve the custody dispute. I’ll share any information I learn here.
[Thanks to Dana Woldow of PEACHSF for the tip.]