Home Health and Health Care 200lb 3rd Grader Put In Foster Care Because Of His Weight

200lb 3rd Grader Put In Foster Care Because Of His Weight

by Erika Nicole Kendall

This time, I’m serious, y’all. Presented with absolutely no comment:

CLEVELAND (AP) – An Ohio third-grader who weighs more than 200 pounds has been taken from his family and placed into foster care after county social workers said his mother wasn’t doing enough to control his weight.

The Plain Dealer reports that the Cleveland 8-year-old is considered severely obese and at risk for such diseases as diabetes and hypertension.

The case is the first state officials can recall of a child being put in foster care strictly for a weight-related issue.

Lawyers for the mother say the county overreached when authorities took the boy last week. They say the medical problems he is at risk for do not yet pose an imminent danger.

A spokeswoman says the county removed the child because caseworkers saw his mother’s inability to reduce his weight as medical neglect. [source]

Maybe I’m spoiled because I’ve created a really inclusive environment, here… I don’t know. I just don’t get it.

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Peaches November 29, 2011 - 8:29 AM

Okay, I have heard about this story, but there are details that have not been shared. Did the state give the mother a step program to follow before they took her child? Did she not complete any of the steps before the state decided to take action? We are not really hearing this. I do think that if she was not given an ultimatum, then the state is wrong. The article that I read indicated that the mother was trying to get assistance for her child, but it is unclear what she was trying to do. This is a serious issue, but to take the child from his mother is extreme. If he has an eating disorder, this action will not help to completely remove him from his environment or comfort zone. Yes, this environment is not productive, but complete removal seems to not be the best answer either. It seems that you need to remain in your environment, and learn the proper steps to eat healthy and maintain your weight.

Serenity November 29, 2011 - 9:08 AM

Did they put the child in a special foster program designed medically for weight reduction or just some folks looking to cash a check who will probably starve the child?

Msladee November 29, 2011 - 1:08 PM

The article I read yesterday on Yahoo News (via ABC News: http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/health/2011/11/27/obese-third-grader-taken-from-family-placed-in-foster-care/) stated that officials monitored the child while he was in a health program for children. It also stated that he lost some weight, but then started gaining it back. This leads me to believe that they are not taking her child for neglect (total disregard) but rather for negligence (or the state’s version of “You aren’t trying hard enough/You aren’t losing fast enough”). If this article is true, then agree with the mother’s attorney. The state is overreaching it’s authority. Moreover, I’m glad that the Yahoo article pointed out the negative consequences of removing a child from the home without fully investigating the child’s weight issues. F

Rosa November 29, 2011 - 8:53 AM

As a former child protective social worker, I bet the State did everything to get mother to comply with medical treatment. I suspect that mother didn’t change her parenting when it came to food and exercise for the 3rd grader. There is a lot more supervision by the State. The State wouldn’t remove a kid so quickly. That is unfortunately why children do fall through the cracks and are killed by their parents. This is just a slower death–by food.

I am obese. No qualms about saying that, but I ensure that my children eat healthy and get plenty of physical activity through sports programs and making them go outside. I was born and raised in Harlem to a single parent who was afraid of her own shadow. She overfed me to keep me in control and did not allow for me to be outdoors. I understand that there are circumstances where parents don’t live in the safest of communities and letting children outdoors is not a good idea, but my 4th grader is 85 lbs and that child weighing the same as I do at 37 is wrong.

Rudie November 29, 2011 - 3:49 PM

I think the article I read said that they took the 3rd grader as a result of her taking the child for medical treatment which indicated that his health had not improved as the State mandated. I feel there’s a lot more information that could help those not involved better understand the situation.

As websites such as this constantly drive home, weight loss of a large scale and overall improved health aren’t things that happen overnight; and they don’t always happen on a schedule. Could the State have an actual deadline for his weight loss? What type of metric would demonstrate a successful LIFESTYLE change? There may have also been considerations of what was available to him during the school day. If his economic situation warranted him eating school breakfast and lunch, was the quality of those meals considered in his mandated change? What was his mother’s health situation? How much help was she privy to? Did either of them have any underlying conditions that were thoroughly investigated? The same article cited a similar case where a child was returned after failing to improve in foster care. She also later learned she had some sort of genetic disposition to weight gain, though what wasn’t elaborated on (http://news.yahoo.com/obese-third-grader-taken-mom-placed-foster-care-201731761.html).

I don’t yet have children, but from my own foster care experiences I can say that being removed from your home and such an influential age and then being forced to change your entire routine can potentially be a traumatizing experience for some. Such an intense emotional shift could have a negative impact on any effort to help the boy. Overall, this is a difficult situation to understand.

Rooo May 16, 2013 - 6:42 PM

“What type of metric would demonstrate a successful LIFESTYLE change? “

This is the first question I have.

The second question I have is whether the mom was provided with *any* kind of educational assistance whatsoever to help her in providing such changes for her child.

When and where are we ever taught parenting in this society? What if her parents never taught her any better?

I also was an overprotected child, and as a result I have physical imbalances as a result of muscular underdevelopment that I’m still trying to iron out … and my parents were educated people (educators, AMOF).
I’m thinking this mama — and we haven’t even started on the extent to which her neighborhood might be a food desert and too dangerous to let her child out to play in — never really even had a chance.

“Lawyers for the mother say the county overreached when authorities took the boy last week.”

And IMO those attorneys would be correct.


Erika November 29, 2011 - 11:26 AM

Omg@200lbs. That baby weighed as much as me.

This article rings a bell to something I personally experienced:

My female friend who has 3 kids, 7-year-old would eat until he was sick. He was overweight too. I thought he was 9 or 10 when I first met him. One day he was just talking to me and my SO about being hungry, and we said in unison, “you just ate a meal 30 minutes ago”. My SO asked him why he was still hungry. Baby boy replied, “because I’m afraid that we might not be able to eat later”. My stomach quivered in worry. My SO’s talked to her about what her son said. She stated they had some bouts of homelessness and etc. So environment plays a big part in this picture.

Today, I still call this her to check up on her and the kids. Now 10, he looks and acts his age. Now that his housing situation is more stable, he’s in a school with a decent breakfast and lunch program (and even dinner if the kids stay for study hours after school). He doesn’t worry too much about not being able to eat the next day. I take her shopping with me to farmer markets to help some.

My friend isn’t a bad mother, nor do I think the state should take her kids away because she was homeless, lost her job, etc. She did what she had to do what with the little she had. I’m hoping the mother in the article tried everything she could before the State stepped in.

I’m hoping she gets the help she needs to stabilize and get her family back.

So I don’t know if the mother in at article did anything wrong, but they should definitely look at the child’s environment and living situation.

unscrambled November 30, 2011 - 10:01 AM

THANK YOU for talking about food insecurity, which is a very common reason for compulsive/overeating (and one of the many reasons why putting a kid on a really strict and restrictive diet backfires, and ultimately leads to weight gain/sneaking food/hiding food/generally unloving relationships with food).

(there are hundreds of articles on the subject)

From what I can tell, the only thing that was ‘wrong’ with this kid is that the kid was/is fat. No. Current. Health. Problems. And, the mom said she was honestly trying to help the kid/feed him right. It’s possible enough that this kid has some as-yet undiscovered health concern that either metabolically or psychologically induces over-feeding–parents of kids with Prader-Willi were blamed for their kids’ overeating before the syndrome was well described (and the gene deletion identified).

We have serious serious serious problems here in Cleveland (many of them related to food and health) and I am appalled that this was enough of a priority for the state to traumatize this kid even more (can you imagine how rough it is to be a 200lb 8 year old?) by yanking him from his family.

It’s true that we may not know the whole story, but this whole thing stinks and hurts my heart for this kid.

Erika, I love love love that this blog isn’t afraid to take it there and talk about all of the complex issues that go with food.

ichoosethesun November 29, 2011 - 1:27 PM

As someone who has worked within the child welfare system for years, I think this sets a horrible precedent. The already overburdened system can barely effectively serve children who are victims of extreme abuse and neglect. Childhood obesity (particularly when hereditary) is way too complex an issue to be addressed in this manner. The State of Ohio has just placed this young boy at risk of a host of other disparaging outcomes in addition to poor health.

Asia December 1, 2011 - 12:19 PM

Agree completely.

Eva November 30, 2011 - 12:11 PM

Maybe they need to teach the mother how to eat and what to serve. Maybe she doesn’t know how to cook or what to eat. This is all learned behavior and it’s harder today because there is so much junk out here. Maybe the mom AND the child need help.

Cherished November 30, 2011 - 1:45 PM

This story came out at the same time a story in Chicago came out about a four year old who was killed by paramour and possibly mother. DCFS had been out the home before and the day before he had a black eye that was noticed by a neighbor. This type of abuse is more in our face than the slow abuse of medical neglect. Both are important and both can lead to death or a lifetime of problems.

Dominique June 27, 2012 - 5:56 PM

I don’t know all the details surrounding this case but I feel like taking a child from his mother and placing him with strangers won’t help. His eating habits were already bad and now they’ve added an emotional trauma on top of it.

El January 30, 2013 - 4:22 AM

Throwing a kid into a new home on top of all the stress he’s going through isn’t a good precedent. If you want a child to be healthy and happy, they need to be STABLE first, and have trusting healthy relationships with the people in their lives. If there was no abuse going on here I don’t see why the child was taken from his home- I don’t see him reaching their goals in a timely or healthy fashion when he no longer has a family to support him.

ab January 30, 2013 - 12:05 PM

I wonder, are the arrests for parents of anorexics and 12 yr old child models coming soon?.

What about the food advertising industry for lying about food contents on their packages?

Food marketing industry?

We keep treating symptoms and not the cause, we have all this madness going on in the food and we don’t think that it might be more beneficial to use the money being paid into foster care to create local wellness programs for neighbourhoods and families?
(my utopia).

I don’t even know how to feel about the above

Erika Nicole Kendall January 30, 2013 - 8:19 PM


christine January 31, 2013 - 2:28 PM

I’ve seen this situation with friend’s kids and you know ya can’t say anything about someone elses kids. Can you imagine the torment this poor kid must go thru in school, on the street. Maybe in the long run this is the best thing for the child. Sometimes people need a shock so they can see what everyone else sees..my baby just big boned..no your baby is obese

EB January 31, 2013 - 1:57 PM

I’m happy to see that times and protocol have changed. I was over 200 lbs in the 2nd grade and I used to go to school with bruises and scars all over my body and no one stepped in until I reported my mother for abuse. Then I was interrogated and treated like a criminal at 8 years old.

Erika Nicole Kendall January 31, 2013 - 7:32 PM

“Bruises and scars” is a VERY different situation from “overweight.” VERY different.

EB January 31, 2013 - 7:38 PM

I guess you missed this part: “. “I was over 200 lbs in the 2nd grade”, which was in addition to the other “abuse” that I was referencing. but in any case, there wasn’t any state or county intervention for me in NY in 1988.

Erika Nicole Kendall January 31, 2013 - 7:49 PM

I didn’t miss anything.

Please, there’s no need for condescension.

EB January 31, 2013 - 7:51 PM

All I’m saying is that time have changed with the way the system works. What’s the difference between a 2nd grader being over 200 lbs and a 3rd grader being over 200 lbs? Isn’t it still abuse or neglect nonetheless?

Erika Nicole Kendall January 31, 2013 - 8:01 PM

You, actually, said “I think you missed the part where…”

I, actually, didn’t miss anything.

LOTS of things contribute to obese children. Were you abused as a child, and learned the hard way to [ab]use food to make yourself feel better about the situation? Did you grow up poor, and binge on everything you could get your hands on when there actually WAS food? Did you have obese parents who, growing up in a vacuum and were told it was okay to be obese…which was reinforced by the number of people around you who were obese too, thought nothing of their child being larger?

Do you really think that every 200lb 3rd grader’s situation is the same as yours? If you have a horrible pair of parents, chances are high its because they’re doing a hell of a lot more to their child than just overfeeding them. And to imply that that lack of knowledge is enough to justify tearing apart what could otherwise be loving families is pretty repulsive. I’m just sayin’.

I don’t make assumptions. I [try to] make space for compassion and understanding. If you can’t do that, then we really don’t have much to talk about.

Sara Stein MD July 5, 2013 - 6:16 PM

Update – he went to live with his uncle, lost weight, came back to mom where he had volunteer wrap around care from multiple volunteers, gained some but not all back, they moved out of state and are no longer an open case.

Erika Nicole Kendall July 6, 2013 - 4:46 PM

Have a link?

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