Sunday, November 27, 2011

Obese Child Removed from Family & Placed in Foster Care

Remember a couple of months ago the story from England of children being removed from their parents and placed for adoption because they were obese? Couldn't happen in America, right?  Or maybe it could:
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.

At more than 200 pounds, the third-grader is considered severely obese and at risk for developing such diseases as diabetes and hypertension.

But even though the state health department estimates more than 12 percent of third-graders statewide are severely obese -- that could mean 1,380 in Cuyahoga County alone -- this is the first time anyone in the county or the state can recall a child being taken from a parent for a strictly weight-related issue.

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Cuyahoga County does not have a specific policy on dealing with obese children. It removed the boy because case workers considered this mother's inability to get her son's weight down a form of medical neglect, said Mary Louise Madigan, a spokeswoman for the Department of Children and Family Services.

They said that the child's weight gain was caused by his environment and that the mother wasn't following doctor's orders -- which she disputes.

"This child's problem was so severe that we had to take custody," Madigan said. The agency worked with the mother for more than a year before asking Juvenile Court for custody of the child, she said.

Lawyers for the mother, a substitute elementary school teacher who is also taking vocational school classes, 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.

They question whether the emotional impact of being yanked from his family, school and friends was also considered.

* * *

Arthur Caplan, a professor of bioethics and medical ethics at the University of Pennsylvania, said that before a trend of removing children takes hold, the broader public-policy issue needs to be explored.

"A 218-pound 8-year-old is a time bomb," Caplan acknowledged. "But the government cannot raise these children. A third of kids are fat. We aren't going to move them all to foster care. We can't afford it, and I'm not sure there are enough foster parents to do it. "
He said he is worried that the families with the fewest resources, which are often minorities, will end up being ones with their children removed.
Caplan said one could get ethical whiplash in a world where one arm of government is so concerned about a child's weight that it removes him from his home, while another branch of government argues that french fries and tomato paste on pizza should be counted as servings of vegetables.
What do you think? Should obese children be removed when the parents are not successful in getting them to lose weight?


Helene said...

You need to fix your second link.

malinda said...

Thanks, Helene -- it's fixed now!

LilySea said...

That last point about the pizza-as-vegetable is really the crux of the matter. My first thought after that came out (the pizza thing) was that none of the children of members of congress have to eat free school lunch. Why do these stories about the obesity crisis in the U.S. NEVER address the fact that poor people are more likely to be obese and that addressing wealth disparity may go further to addressing health problems than anything else?
The very idea that minority and poor children "might" be disproportionately placed into foster care is ridiculous. There is no "might" about it. Minority children are already targeted for foster care at ridiculously disproportionate rates.
If the government cared about the health of the poor it would spend more than a dollar on a school lunch.

maybe said...

Next time you're in a hospital take a look at all the overweight nurses/doctors/administrators...if health care professionals can't control their weight it makes me think there is something larger at play here. Could it be chemicals in our food, growth hormones, excess sugar? The cause of obesity it not as obvious as we would like to believe and it certainly is even harder to cure.

Punishing struggling families by putting overweight children in foster care is absurd. What's next, incarcerating people to make them lose weight? I'm sure the prison-industrial complex will be all for it!

Anonymous said...

Can you imagine when obama"care" goes into full swing... This case will seem like nothing...