CLEVELAND HEIGHTS, Ohio, Nov. 28 (UPI) -- Social workers have removed an 8-year-old Ohio boy who weighs more than 200 pounds from his family, saying his mother had not done enough to control his weight.
The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer reports the Cleveland Heights boy has been placed in foster care, apparently the first time Cuyahoga County or state officials knew of a child being removed from a parent solely because of a weight issue.
Mary Louise Madigan, a spokeswoman for the Department of Children and Family Services in Cuyahoga County, said the county has no policy on obese children but removed the boy because case workers considered his mother's failure to reduce his weight a form of medical neglect.
"This child's problem was so severe that we had to take custody," Madigan said.
She said the agency had worked with the mother more than a year before going to Juvenile Court to seek custody.
The mother of the third-grader disputes officials' claims she hadn't followed a doctor's orders.
A lawyer representing the mother, a substitute elementary school teacher, said the boy's condition does not present an imminent danger to his health and pointed to the emotional impact of the child's being removed from his family, school and friends.
"I think we would concede that some intervention is appropriate," Juvenile Public Defender Sam Amata said. "But what risk became imminent? When did it become an immediate problem?"
Children are typically removed from homes because of physical abuse, neglect or undernourishment.
Amata said the boy was on the honor roll and participated in school activities.
He has only one medical condition, sleep apnea, treated with a machine he wears at night that helps monitor breathing.
"They are trying to make it seem like I am unfit, like I don't love my child," the boy's mother said. "Of course I love him. Of course I want him to lose weight. ... It is very hard, but I am trying."
The Plain Dealer did not name the mother or boy because it generally does not identify those involved in abuse cases.