Obese child removed from home:Is obesity neglect/abuse?
By GaelMc on November 30, 2011
Pat Riteout, administrator for Child and Family Services, Ohio said "it is a case of medical neglect"...he has a "potentially life threatening form of sleep apnea that is exacerbated by his morid obesity." If this is accurate, was removal from his home the only option? The 8 year old weighs 218 #'s. The average 8 year old is 60 #'s. Social workers said they empathized with the family. They state their goal is still to reunite the child with his mother.
In a highly charged article Anthony Gucciardi in Infowars stated that "… the county in which the boy lived in, Cuyahoga County, does not have a specific policy on dealing with obese children". If this is factual does the department now face legal jeopardy for its actions? The mother's lawyers are now arguing that the county "overreached" in taking her son. Unlike Riteout they contend that the child's health is not in "imminent danger". No other indicators of abuse or neglect have been reported. The lawyers said they know homes where children are left with abusive or drug addicted parents. They report that this child has a "normal childhood", he participates in school activities, and "was on his elementary school honor roll".
In a professional capacity I have witnessed the removal of children. Children in the system know how to identify the departmental vehicles. One girl ran toward the van begging to leave. Other children dearly love their parents and despite the dysfunction, abuse or neglect are traumatized at being separated from them, their siblings and their life. They have to be pried out of parental arms. I interviewed a criminal on parole, his crimes were violent. He said he was 6 years old when his wealthy parents placed him in an elite boarding school. He said that was the day he lost his 'family' and was left with mere 'relatives'. While this does not hold true for every boarded child he said his parents' voluntarily surrendering him into the care of others left him feeling totally abandoned, rejected and unable to attach to others. I have interviewed women post incarceration. Their child/ren were often separated from each other and placed with family or in "care". Upon release the mothers found that the child was no longer bonded to his siblings, or her. They cried for their new "brothers and sisters" or new "mommy". The long term consequences of such separation is rarely considered when women are sentenced to jail.
Family ties lay the foundation of a person's adult adjustment. Parents are not pawns on a chess board, easily moved and replaced by another. There is a risk this child will develop attachment difficulties. Ohio policies attempt to mitigate the negative effect of separation. According to their own policies the child should be placed with relatives to protect familial bonds, and if not family (called kinship care) then known others and within the neighborhood or community so as not to disrupt social and academic ties. Hopefully those guidelines have been followed.
The department is to be applauded for attempting to work with this family for over 20 months. It is not known how much that oversight has cost to date. While he is in foster care the state of Ohio will draw approximately $6,000 per month from Title IV funding (Social Security) via Bill Clinton's "Safe Family Act" bill of 1994.
Rather than drawing these Federal funds could the state have initated an in-home comprehensive treatment approach involving daily oversight by a pediatric nurse and/or dietician? Would that have cost more than the ineffective oversight and out of home dietary plans initiated to date? Do Ohio departmental policies or politics allow for creativity or alternative plans? Often practices are cemented in place and those with creative ideas are ignored at best or punished at worst.
The questions go beyond funding concerns, if the mother cannot stop this child from over eating will a foster home be any more effective? If this mother sues in the absence of substantiating departmental polices, and with the reported split in the medical field over this action, will the county pay out far more in a court award or settlement than it would have paid for a comprehensive in-home treatment approach?
On 11/29/2011 the child's mother said she loves her son. She denies she is to blame for his unhealthy weight. It was also reported that DCF workers told her nearly 2 years ago to try to get his weight down, she said she tried but "it is easier said than done". Anyone struggling with weight reduction knows this statement to be true. The family had been given diets, assistance from dieticians and was enrolled in a nutrition program through Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital yet the child gained weight.
Why did this happen? Richard Wexler, Executive Director of the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform (www.nccpr.org) says that every caseworker in the county is running scared after a local report that children under their supervision have died. Wexler says "they rushed to tear apart every family in sight. Removals of children have skyrocketed - with no regard for the enormous emotional trauma of tearing a child from everyone he knows and loves and consigning him to foster care". Wexler says that the mother isn't even allowed to 'visit' for more than two hours a week. Wexler quotes Amata, a Plain Dealer reporter, "Lawyers for the mother say they've been told that the foster mother who has the child in a neighboring suburb is having trouble keeping up with all of his appointments. There was even a discussion about getting the foster mother additional help or moving the child again, this time to a foster home with a personal trainer, [Juvenile Public Defender Sam] Amata said. "I wonder why they didn't offer the mother that kind of extra help," Amata asks.
This child's weight related health issues have been deemed to be more important than potential abandonment issues, or attachment disruption. If nothing else, this child will likely experience grief and confusion.
There has to be a better way. This child is more than his weight.
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