An eight year old Ohio third-grader that weighs more than 200 pounds has been taken into foster care after county social workers claimed that his mother wasn't doing enough to control his weight, writes the Associated Press.
The eight year old, whose obesity is considered severe and renders him at risk of diseases such as diabetes and hypertension, is the first case of state officials putting a child into foster care strictly for a weight-related issue.
This is despite the state health department estimating more than 12 percent of third-graders within the state of Ohio that are severely obese, which could mean 1,380 in Cuyahoga County alone, writes Rachel Dissell at The Plain Dealer.
Obesity is currently a hot national topic that has some urging more involvement from social-service agencies where parents have failed to address a weight problem. However, some believe that if the government was to step in it smack of hypocrisy, as it appears the government is saying it's ok to advertise unhealthy food and put toys in fast-food kids' meals.
Cuyahoga County does not have a specific policy on dealing with obese children. It removed the boy because case workers 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," said Mary Louise Madigan, a spokeswoman for the Department of Children and Family Services. 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 think the county has overreached in this case, as the boy is being taken into care for medical conditions that he is at risk of, rather than currently afflicted with.
"I think we would concede that some intervention is appropriate," Juvenile Public Defender Sam Amata said.
"But what risk became imminent? When did it become an immediate problem?"
Dr. Naveen Uli, a pediatric endocrinologist and co-director of the Rainbow Babies & Children's Hospital program called Healthy Kids, Healthy Weight, said he is seeing more children who are quickly developing diseases like Type 2 diabetes and hypertension.
Uli said many families need to relearn how to eat, to read and translate confusing food labels and to make the healthy choices, driving home the importance of family nutritional education. He believes that in most cases, keeping the family unit intact is better.
Arthur Caplan, a professor of bioethics and medical ethics at the University of Pennsylvania believes this is a public issue, and not just the parent's.
"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. "
The Ohio case is set to be debated in front of a Juvenile Court magistrate next month.