Obese Ohio Child Placed in Foster Care For Being Overweight

A few months back, comments made by Dr. David Ludwig in the Journal of the American Medical Association as to the level of appropriate state intervention into childhood obesity sparked heated national debate.

Ludwig’s comments in a July piece suggested removing obese children from their homes and placing them in foster care, a concept that rightly upset many parents in the US, where childhood obesity is high. (Ludwig sniffed about a “chronic failure to address medical problems” on the part of parents in his article.) Now a woman whose 9-year-old son was placed in foster care due to weight struggles is speaking out about the controversial removal. The woman was not identified by name by local press, who report her son is on the honor roll and participates in school activities. But the child weighs 200 lbs., and local child welfare authorities believed that in and of itself, the child’s weight was reason enough to remove him from the care of his mother to live in foster care until he slims down.

Mary Louise Madigan, a spokeswoman for the Department of Children and Family Services in the family’s Ohio county, confirmed that the removal was based on “medical neglect” allegations made against the mother solely for the child’s weight. Local press obtained a brief comment from Madigan about the situation:

“This child’s problem was so severe that we had to take custody,” Madigan said. 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, a substitute elementary school teacher who is also taking vocational school classes, think the county has overreached in this case by arguing that medical conditions the boy is at risk for — but doesn’t yet have — pose an imminent danger to his health.

Juvenile Public Defender Sam Amata also spoke to the paper, noting that in the care of foster parents in another county, the child has lost a “few pounds”- but that the foster mother has struggled to keep up with medical appointments for the child. Amata points out that extra help has been offered to the foster mother, help that probably would have been more effective if offered to his actual mother. A trial to determine the fate of the family and the case has been scheduled for the child’s birthday.