Constitutional Law

State Removes 200-Pound Boy, 8, From Mom's Home Because He Is Too Fat

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Few would dispute that overweight children are a national problem with worrisome potential health consequences, including the mother of a 200-pound 8-year-old Ohio boy who was removed from her home last month because he is too fat.

However, some observers wonder whether the unusual action by Cleveland-area officials was appropriate, particularly since the unidentified child, who is on the honor roll at his school, isn’t imminently at risk, it appears, of any serious harm, reports the Plain Dealer.

“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?”

Some children who have been beaten or whose parents have severe drug problems have been left in their homes, Amata told the Plain Dealer, because it was felt they were not in imminent danger.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Children and Family Services said it considered the mother’s inability to get her child to lose weight a form of medical neglect.

“This child’s problem was so severe that we had to take custody,” said spokeswoman Mary Louise Madigan. The state had worked with his mother for over a year before seeking custody, she said.

The 8-year-old is now living in a foster home. His mother says she is allowed to see him only once weekly, for a two-hour visit.

The article says a juvenile court hearing is scheduled next month, on the boy’s 9th birthday, to determine what is in his best interest.

Traditionally, parents have been considered to have a constitutional right to raise their children as they think best. The state intervenes as needed to protect the child in cases of abandonment, juvenile delinquency, neglect and/or physical abuse. Also, when separated or divorced parents cannot agree on a child-rearing matter, a court ruling may be required.

The article says this is the only time those interviewed are aware of when an Ohio child was removed from his or her home solely because of a weight issue.

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