An eight-year-old boy, third grade student from Cleveland Heights, Ohio, has been removed from his home after he grew to 218 pounds, weighing nearly as much as four of his age children.
The boy was put in foster care by social workers from the Department of Children and Family Services because his mother isn’t doing enough to control his weight, the state agency says.
The “severely obese” boy requires so much medical attention, the state agency is considering getting a personal trainer to visit his foster home so he can lose weight.
The child, whose name was not made public, is otherwise a normal elementary school student who participates in school activities and makes the honor roll, reports the Cleveland Plain Dealer.
The average weight for an eight-year-old boy is 57 pounds – about one quarter of what the Ohio boy weighs.
Ohio social workers said the child’s mother is neglecting her son because she’s not doing enough to bring his weight down.
“This child’s problem was so severe that we had to take custody,” Mary Louise Madigan, a spokeswoman for the Department of Children and Family Services, told the Plain Dealer.
But the mother, who was also not identified, said she has worked hard to get her son to shed pounds. She just hasn’t been able to get him to keep it off.
“Of course I love him. Of course I want him to lose weight. It’s a lifestyle change, and they are trying to make it seem like I am not embracing that. It is very hard, but I am trying,” the mother told the Plain Dealer.
The case has set off debates about the point at which childhood weight problems become child abuse, especially when nearly 20% of children aged 6 to 11 are obese.
Dr. David Ludwig, a Harvard University pediatric obesity expert, says severe obesity in children can cause diabetes, cholesterol problems, sleep apnea and other conditions that could dramatically shorten the child’s lifespan.
Arthur Caplan, a University of Pennsylvania ethicist, said obesity isn’t like other things that have been labeled child abuse.
“A third of kids are fat. We aren’t going to move them all to foster care. We can’t afford it, and I’m not sure there are enough foster parents to do it,” Arthur Caplan told the Plain Dealer.