Are Parents Negligent
When Kids Are Obese?

Recently, an Ohio third grader was removed from his home due to his morbid obesity. Did the county go too far by placing him in foster care, and who is responsible when a child is severely overweight? Read on!


After a county agency deemed his parents unfit to provide needed dietary and exercise changes to help the boy lose weight, the youngster was placed in foster care, sparking a debate on what is true negligence and when does the government have a right to intervene and take over. With the number of obese Americans growing each year, it's hard to say where the responsibility lies and what we should do about it.

Over 200 pounds

The 8-year-old boy weighs in at over 200 pounds, which is far above the average weight for a child of his age -- the average weight of a boy his age is just shy of 60 pounds. Social workers began monitoring his situation after he was brought to the hospital for sleep issues and was diagnosed with sleep apnea, which has likely been caused by his weight.

Social workers continued to work with the mother and the child for over a year, but ultimately removed him because they decided she wasn't doing enough to remedy his obesity. He was deemed at risk for developing serious health issues, such as diabetes and high blood pressure.

Obesity in America

According to the CDC, over a third of American adults are obese, which is defined as having a body mass index over 30. An astonishing 17 percent of American children are obese as well, which accounts for over 12.5 million children ages 2 to 19. The obesity epidemic is far reaching and gets worse with each passing year.

For example, a state with a high percentage of obese people, such as Mississippi, had obesity rates in the 10 to 14 percent range in 1990. Twenty years later, in 2010, the rates skyrocketed to well over 30 percent of that state's population. It's not specific to a certain area, either -- the nation as a whole has gotten heavier.

Ethical conundrum

The question must be raised: how can the government justify removing a child from his home because he is too heavy, while Congress pushes through bills that count pizza sauce as a complete serving of vegetables? While the mixed messages being sent are confusing, children are often the ones who lose out.

Michael, father of twin girls, said, "The government wants poor people to be fat. Go to the store... go to Walmart, even. Take a good look at the cheap foods -- the ones that make Food Stamp dollars stretch. You'll find some of the most sugar-laden, fattening things in the store, which sucks when you're trying to feed your family."

Were they right to remove the boy?

Removing the boy from his home and placing him into foster care was a huge and debatable step. Jen from Canada reflected, "What perplexes me here is that they removed the child from the home but kids in physically abusive homes are often not removed until it's too late and we're reading about their deaths."

"Kids in physically abusive homes are often not removed until it's too late and we're reading about their deaths."

Becky from Texas thinks the child will suffer even more from the removal. "Think about how this makes the child feel," she shared. "'I'm fat, so I got put in foster care.' It would be much better to work with the family to help them and the child rather than giving the child one more reason to feel like crap."

Lisa, mother and grandmother of many, found some ominous overtones in this case. "Best be careful, or the government will be stepping into your family and dictating how you are to raise your children, or they will remove them," she warned. "They have no business doing this."

Tell us

Should obese children ever be removed from their homes? Share you thoughts in the comments section below.

Tags: children and nutrition

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Comments on "Ohio county places obese child in foster care"

Carrol Lindsay December 16, 2011 | 2:46 PM

I feel that the Dept of Social sErvices does not have a right to remove this child from his home because he is overweight. Based on my knowledge and insight, this is a case where the Dept. of Social Services should work with this family to understand why this child is overweight and help the parent(s) and family to help him through education. There was no mention of a childhood doctor mentioned, no dietitian mentioned, no exercise program, no other incentitives mentioned or offered to the parent caring for this child. Children learn what they live and if good examples are set they will pick up the good, but if a child lives where negatives examples are taught then the child will learn negative or bad behaviors. Does the school that he attends offer nutritional foods at lunch time or does the child eat junk, i.e. potatoes, candy, soda pops, ice cream & cake or pies. This is an opportunity to educate the child and his family, this case is similar to an addictied person receiving treatment, if they do not treat the family the treamtent received by the individual does not mean anything. You treat the family everyone will benefit from treament.

Newboy December 06, 2011 | 1:48 PM

It is not permitted to threaten children with violent removal against their and their parents will. Using violence where no violence is present has resulted in widespread in state abuses, and has allowed "legal" child trafficking on an unprecedented scale. You should know better. Removing a child from his parent against his will counts as indentured servitude, which is not permitted. You should also begin to respect people's boundaries. I am surprised nobody ever taught you that.

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