200-lb third-grader placed in foster care for being too fat

Students of a Special school that helps teens and college level students lose weight during a morning walk.  (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images/AFP )
County officials in Ohio saw a big problem with an 8-year-old child living in Cleveland Heights — the third grader, name withheld, was tipping the scales at over 200 pounds.

Case workers in Cuyahoga County feared for their child’s life and have placed him into foster care after the working with their mother for more than a year to help remedy the boy’s obesity problem. Social workers tell the Cleveland Plain Dealer that the boy has been under protective supervision from the county since 2010 when he was diagnose with sleep apnea, a condition which is commonly weight-related. The child began to lose weight shortly after but has ballooned up to more than 200 pounds in recent months.

"A 218-pound 8-year-old is a time bomb," University of Pennsylvania professor Arthur Caplan tells the Plain Dealer.

Even if that is the case, the child’s mother and others think that the government’s intervention wasn’t exactly necessary.

"They are trying to make it seem like I am unfit, like I don't love my child," the boy's mother says. Her name is also being withheld.

"Of course I love him,” she adds. “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."

While her child is in the custody of Cuyahoga County foster care, the mother will only be allowed recitation once a week for two hours at a time. Caplan says that while the child’s condition was catastrophic, that doesn’t give the county permission to put him into the hands of a new family.

“The government cannot raise these children,” says Caplain. “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. "

Given state-wide statistics, 12 percent of third-graders in Ohio alone are severely obese; if that trends is true for Cuyahoga County alone, that would mean that state should relocate nearly 1,400 overweight children on the taxpayers’ dime, lest that want to seem hypocritical.

Children are typically relocated into foster care due to physical abuse, undernourishment or neglect. In the case of Cleveland Heights child, “medical neglect” is in play in this incident, say one county spokeswoman.

"This child's problem was so severe that we had to take custody," says Department of Children and Family Services spokeswoman Mary Louise Madigan.

Public Defender Sam Amata, working on the side of the child’s mother, says that intervention was appropriate — to a degree — but asks, “What risk became imminent? When did it become an immediate problem?"

The child, who is currently on the honor roll at his elementary school, might return full-time to his mother in the near future; a Juvenile Court judge will preside over the case next month.