Friday, December 2, 2011

Should the State be Allowed to Place Obese Children in Foster Care?

By Wendy Alton

In Michigan, the state has the power to remove children from their parents’ home if there has been abuse or neglect, and the child is unsafe. There are rigorous laws and regulations to be followed, but the ultimate goal is to protect the child.

An interesting definition of neglect was just used by the state of Ohio to remove an 8 year old from his home. A 3rd grade boy in Cleveland was removed from his parents’ home and placed in foster care for what the county termed “medical neglect.” However, what constituted “medical neglect” was actually obesity.

The 8 year old boy weighs more than 200 pounds. The county agency indicated that they had been working with the mother for the last 20 months in order to get his weight down. The mother’s failure to control his weight is what the county considered medical neglect, and the court agreed. The boy was removed from his mother’s home and placed in foster care.

While details of the weight struggle are missing from the news coverage, it does appear that the boy did not suffer from any significant medical conditions. He was diagnosed last year with sleep apnea, which is when the county became involved. Other than that, there appears to be no evidence of any other medical conditions. In Michigan, a child is not removed from their parents’ home unless there is evidence of neglect or abuse and the child is not safe. Is an obese child not safe if there are no other medical conditions?

With obesity being a nationwide problem, it raises some interesting questions.

Read the ABC News article here: Ohio puts 200-pound third-grader in foster care.

If you are interested in learning more about family law or divorce, or have a question about those issues, please call Wendy Alton at 248-380-9976 or email her at

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