An 8-year-old obese boy was taken from his parents and placed in foster care after social services workers feared for his health and safety.
The boy weighs more than 200 pounds, and social service workers took the boy last month because they felt the mother was not doing enough to help her child maintain a healthy weight.
Mary Louise Madigan, a spokesperson for the Department of Children and Family Services said the child’s problem was “so severe that we had to take custody.
“The agency worked with the mother for more than a year before asking Juvenile Court for custody of the child,” said Madigan.
Children and Family Services claim that his environment caused the child’s weight gain and that the mother was not following doctor's orders, a claim the mother disputes.
Cuyahoga County does not have a specific policy on dealing with obese children. It removed the boy because caseworkers considered the mother's inability to get her son's weight down a form of medical neglect, Madigan said.
Even though the state health department estimates more than 12 percent of third-graders statewide are severely obese, 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, as reported by the Plain Dealer in Cleveland.
Lawyers for the mother, a substitute elementary school teacher, said the county overreached by arguing and speculating on medical conditions the boy is at risk for, but does not yet have, pose an imminent danger to his health.
They will also look into whether the emotional impact of being yanked from his family, school and friends on the boy.
"I think we would concede that some intervention is appropriate," said Juvenile Public Defender Sam Amata. "But what risk became imminent? When did it become an immediate problem?”
"They are trying to make it seem like I am unfit, like I don't love my child,” said the boy's mother. "Of course I love him. Of course, I want him to lose weight. It's a lifestyle change, and they are trying to make it seem like I am not embracing that. It is very hard, but I am trying.”