Ohio Removes Child from Home for…

… obesity. Have you seen this?

What do you think?

CLEVELAND — An Ohio third-grader who weighs more than 200 pounds has been taken from his family and placed into foster care after county social workers said his mother wasn’t doing enough to control his weight.

The Plain Dealer reports (http://bit.ly/t68M7D ) that the Cleveland 8-year-old is considered severely obese and at risk for such diseases as diabetes and hypertension.

The case is the first state officials can recall of a child being put in foster care strictly for a weight-related issue.

Lawyers for the mother say the county overreached when authorities took the boy last week. They say the medical problems he is at risk for do not yet pose an imminent danger.

A spokeswoman says the county removed the child because caseworkers saw his mother’s inability to reduce his weight as medical neglect.

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than forty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.

  • Robin

    I have struggled with this topic all week long. The bottom line for me is that a child whose parents feed in such a way that they become extremely obese is, health-wise, just in as bad a position as a child whose parents allow them to smoke, drink, do drugs.

    If parents were giving an 8 year old cigarettes, booze, or drugs we would be OK with removing them for abuse/neglect and at some weights obesity is just as damaging as those other things are to children.

    The only complicating issue is setting the cutoff line. It shouldn’t be illegal to give your kid a big-mac, they’re not harmful in and of themselves, but giving them enough big Macs that an 8 year old is 200 pounds might necessitate removal.

    According to the table below the average weight for 8 year old boys in the United States is 57 pounds. Maybe some rule of thumb like “once a minor is 300% of the average weight of their age/sex cohort, investigations of abuse and neglect can be opened” So abuse investigations for 8 year olds might start at 150 pounds, investigations for 15 year olds would start around 350.

  • Robin
  • http://homewardbound-cb.blogspot.com ChrisB

    It’s ridiculous. This is beyond the pail.

    Robin: Why 300%? Why not 200 or 100? Who gets to decide where the cutoff is? What if they aren’t overweight but still eat too much fast food or play too much video games? What if their grades are bad?

    The bar for removing a child from his home should be very high — both because we have a certain right to raise our children and because the harm to the child due to removing him from his home is very great.

    We also don’t have enough foster parents as it is. Kids are taken from their parents because of abuse or neglect. I’ve got foster kids in my home right now. Their parents not only used drugs, but the kids managed to get into their stash. Do we want the foster homes to fill up with kids who are too fat or whose parents let them watch too much tv or taught them homosexuality is wrong (don’t think it won’t happen somewhere) so that we have nowhere to put the kids who were life-flighted with crack in their system?

    I know slippery-slope fallacy blah blah blah. The truth is we both need to and ought to keep the criteria for removing children from their homes incredibly high.

  • Elizabeth

    ChrisB – Robin thinks the threshold for removing a child should be high. You think it should be higher. There are judgement calls regardless – there is no way to make a decision on issues like this which is 100% objective (as you are well aware and as you allude to in your comment). Robin was merely putting forth a casual suggestion for how you could systematically address the neglect* which is manifest in morbid paediatric obesity.

    *This is the crux of the issue of course – is morbid obesity in children (with the parents/guardians not taking steps to address it) a sign of neglect? Robin and I would probably say yes. I think you would say no.

    And, as an aside, I’m sincerely glad there are good people like you doing fostering…keep up the good work; we all know it is not often easy.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    I too have struggled with this all week.

    The issue is not the absolute weight, it is the parent’s reaction to the weight and are they cooperating or not. If they are trying it is one thing, if they are antagonistic it is another entirely. The trajectory is important, but even that is not iron clad. This is when we need a judge…

  • TJJ

    At first blush, could seem kind of extreme. but consider the following:

    1. 200 pds for an 8 year old is really extreme. There are definitely problems/issues here.

    2. There have probably been contact, attempted intervention, help, etc already offered and tried before thibgs got to this point. Things like this don’t just suddenly happen, there is some history that played out before things got to this point.

    3. The removal will only be temporary. The child will be returned, but with stipulations for needed changes and cooperation with health/mental health professionals. in that sense it will serve as a wake up call for this family/parents to get their act together for the welfare of this child.

    This is not all that unusual a case except for the fact is it being prompted by an extreme weight issue. but this kind of action is done every day for issues in a home that threaten the health and welfare of a child and can’t get resolved through a lower level of intervention. Most issues don’t get to the point of removing a child.

  • Beakerj

    No-one wants to be quick to remove a child from his/her parents, & hopefully this will only be done because all else has failed. I think with #1, that had this been another issue, there’d be no complaints…but we all need to be aware of the health, & social, implications of such a young child being this size. If the parents were starving this child, or giving it such poor food it got rickets & so on, we also would have no disagreement. But he fact is that being this obese is extremely dangerous, & could halve the child’s life expectancy, or worse, as well as destroying its quality.
    This has happened here in England too, when obese children were threatened with going into care. It is a welfare issue, & one we’ll see a lot more of.

  • http://www.fellowtravelerblog.com rob Haskell

    Parents have rights and almost any outcome is better for a child than being removed from his family. Stay out of people’s business social workers! Chase down the kids who are being seriously mistreated. Obesity is not a crime.

  • Tami M

    If you do drugs and get caught at it, you may lose your kids (temporarily or permenantly). But it’s illegal to do drugs.

    It’s not illegal to not allow your kid to roam the streets of your neighborhood. It’s not illegal to feed your kids highly processed foods because that’s all you can afford.

    I work with MANY kids who are overweight due to the meds they take. That’s not illegal.

    We can agree that parents have an obligation to provide the basic necessities for their children but no where is it codified that exercize is one of those necessities.

    The problem with this issue is that no single thing the parents did to get their child into this morbidly obese state is against the law.

  • Tom

    Wow, this is so sad. How far will they go. I hope they don’t drag me off to a fat farm next. My wife feeds me too well and they may think that I should be away from her. Come on folks, some of this is genetic and the whole issue is much more complicated than people eating too much food.

  • Robin

    Tami, Tom, others opposed…are you saying that there is literally no weight at which you would consider the obesity sever enough to justify removal? If this kid is so obese by the time he is a teen that he can’t physically get himself out of bed to use the restroom? Is there any extremity of obesity where you would finally concede that the problem is bad enough?

    If such a threshold exists, then we’re just talking about where to set the line. If you would let a kid remain in a home though he can’t get out of bed, dress himself, use the restroom, etc., then I don’t know what to say.

  • http://restoringsoul.blogspot.com Ann F-R

    I can’t help but think that gov’t shouldn’t be involved but church & community should be. Physical health isn’t the only important aspect of children’s being. Wm. Stuntz, in his book, The Collapse of the American Criminal Justice, talks about “official discretion” taking over as the rule of law collapsed. US law has become so extensive that everyone is, ipso facto, a law breaker. “Official discretion”, in turn, leads to discriminatory judgments by the enforcing officials.

  • http://www.intothedesertblog.blogspot.com Nate

    Weight limits for kids aside, Is there any way of telling whether or not the parents were capable of keeping their kid healthy…or had the understanding necessary to do so? Or is it another case of punishing the poor for being poor?

  • Richard Johnson

    If this child had died in that situation would those of you now criticizing the state for taking him be criticizing them for leaving him?

    As for the church being involved, yes, they do have a role. But if the parents do not wish to respond to the church or other non-legal community organization, do we simply walk away and let the child die?

  • http://Urban-promise.org Jeff

    Having fostered/adopted kids for most of my adult life I have yet to see a case where I thought social workers removed a child too soon. In fact the opposite is too often the case.

    My concern is that philosophically kids are seen as the property and not the responsibility of the parents. Kids are left in unsafe conditions like this child far too long because parental rights are considered with too much weight in our society compared to the child’s interests.


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