Yesterday an eight year old Ohio child was removed from his home and placed in foster care because of his weight. The boy weighs 218 pounds, nearly four times the weight of his “average sized” peers. The county cited “medical neglect” as the reason for removing the boy and indicated that many efforts had been made over the past year to encourage the mother to help her son lose weight. (See details HERE). The mother had apparently not followed through with court mandated services.
The mother (I think she is a single parent) is a substitute teacher and is educated. The family has health insurance. Lack of education or benefits should not have been obstacles as to why this child did not lose weight. The family’s lawyer emphasizes that the county over-stepped bounds by removing this child who “was not in imminent danger, was on his school’s honor roll and participated in school activities.”
Social services contends that the mom was not doing enough to help her child lose weight, thereby putting him at risk for life threatening diseases. Dr. David Ludwig, an obesity specialist at the Children's Hospital states, “Children with obesity-related conditions like diabetes, breathing difficulties, and liver problems could die by age 30 if no action is taken.”
I have been a social worker for the past 14 and have worked for social services. Fortunately, my job has never been to remove kids from their homes, but I’ve worked in the field of foster care for many years. There is a time and a place for foster care. Effective foster parents can provide a child with the stability they need to get out of crisis mode and to heal while their parents are doing what they need to do. It is unfortunately true, however, that a child is at risk for abuse (physical and sexual) while in a foster home, so this needs to be a consideration as well.
In this instance, I believe a significant risk in removing this child is the trauma associated with the separation from his mother. Yes, having a child who is four times the weight he should be is tragic and unconscionable. However, removing him from the home and placing him in foster care may double the damage. It is not the child’s fault. It is the mother’s fault. Yet, the child is the one being punished the most in this situation. Foster care is not fun. Foster care will not make him thin.
I read somewhere that the mom was court ordered to take him to Children’s Hospital for services and she didn’t. So, clearly, something had to be done. In a perfect SUAR world, the money that would be used to fund his foster care stay should have been spent on paying for a Bob Harper type to be planted in the home 24/7. This person would monitor meals/snacks, teach healthy cooking and would devise and supervise an exercise program. I doubt this sort of thing exists in the real world, but it should.
My hope is that this child will return home quickly to a mother who now “gets” the urgency of his medical condition - a mother who has been given the wake up call of her life. The child is only eight. His mother has done her son a great injustice. Mentally, physically, emotionally and socially he has already been scarred. Yet, it is not too late. There are many resources for this type of thing. For instance, Dolvett could whip him into shape!
Do you think children should be removed from their home due to obesity? To me, removal is not the answer. Let’s face it, we can’t go around removing kids for obesity any more than we can remove them for being exposed to second-hand smoke. Both are life threatening conditions and are, I believe, the fault of the parents. Parents need to be educated and held accountable, even if that involves strict intervention that is uncomfortable and inconvenient. Removing the kid is just punishing the child further. Just my two cents.
I bet that kid is home before the end of the week.