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Ohio Third Grader Weighs 200 Pounds, Placed In Foster Care

By:
11/29/2011 03:23 AM ET

Ohio Third Grader Foster Care - An Ohio third grader was placed in foster care due to his weight.

The 8-year-old boy was taken from his family last month after county case workers said his mother wasn’t doing enough to control his weight.

At more than 200 pounds, the Ohio third-grader is considered severely obese and at risk for developing such diseases as diabetes and hypertension.

But even though the Ohio state health department estimates more than 12 percent of third-graders statewide are severely obese — that could mean 1,380 in Cuyahoga County alone — this is the first time anyone in the county or the state can recall a child being taken from a parent and placed in foster care for a strictly weight-related issue.

The case plays into an emerging national debate that has some urging social-service agencies to step in when parents have failed to address a weight problem. Others suggest there’s hypocrisy in a government that would advocate taking children away for being overweight while saying it’s OK to advertise unhealthy food and put toys in fast-food kids’ meals.

Cuyahoga County does not have a specific policy on dealing with obese children. It placed the boy in foster care because case workers considered this mother’s inability to get her son’s weight down a form of medical neglect, said Mary Louise Madigan, a spokeswoman for the Department of Children and Family Services.

They said that the child’s weight gain was caused by his environment and that the mother wasn’t following doctor’s orders — which she disputes.

“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.

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