The controversy over childhood obesity has heated up after social workers removed an eight-year-old boy from his mother’s home due to her inability or inaction to reduce his obesity.
The child, from Cleveland Heights, Ohio, weighs in excess of 200 pounds. The average weight of a male child of that age should be in the neighborhood of 55-60 pounds, with the high end tipping the scale at 78 pounds, according to growth charts from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Even accounting for the upper end of the spectrum, the child was more than 250 percent overweight.
Earlier this year I wrote an editorial on just this topic: Losing parental rights due to obesity. It was in response to an article in the Journal of the American Medical Association, which suggested that severe sanctions should be imposed on parents in cases where their children are morbidly obese and there is an unwillingness to make dietary and lifestyle changes to address the issue. In essence, it calls this type of parenting “child abuse.”
This particular case is a good example of a morbidly obese child, where the mother did not take sufficient steps to reduce the weight, and county officials felt there was medical neglect. According to reports, the case was monitored for more than one year before social workers went to Juvenile Court to remove him from his mother’s care.
Childhood obesity can lead to a host of medical problems, both in youth and adulthood, most notably diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and sleep apnea. Currently the child only suffers from sleep apnea, which is remedied with a CPAP device (continuous positive airway pressure).
Given the age of the child, the only way for him to have gained this much weight was with food purchased and/or prepared by his mother. In many cases, the lack of education or funds can lead to obesity, as starches are usually significantly cheaper than proteins and fresh fruit and vegetables.
But the mother is a substitute teacher and clearly has an education. The child was under a doctor’s care, so lack of medical insurance or money to see a doctor was not the problem. There was clear incentive to help the child reduce weight, given the pressure and visits by social services, and yet it did not happen.
While there are surely facts about this case that have not been revealed, and we do not sit in judgment, this is a clear warning to parents about the consequences of their actions. Losing your child to the system due to an inability or unwillingness to control their obesity is a real threat.