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Is Childhood Obesity a Form of Neglect? By Teresa Cajot While the issue of childhood obesity certainly needs to be addressed, Ohio’s latest attempt at tackling the problem is far from effective. Late last month, the state intervened in the case of a 200-pound third-grader by taking him from his family in Cleveland and placing him in foster care.

Officials first became involved in the situation last year, when the eight-year old was taken to the hospital with breathing problems. The boy was diagnosed with sleep apnea and enrolled in the Healthy Kids, Healthy Weight program at the Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital. According to the Plain Dealer, the boy’s mother worked with social workers for the last year leading to a drop in the boy’s weight but recently his weight began to increase again and the Department of Children and Family Services requested custody of the boy, citing medical neglect. According to social workers, the mother failed to properly control her son’s weight and therefore placed him in danger of diabetes, hypertension, and other diseases. “They are trying to make it seem like I am unfit, like I don’t love my child. 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,” asserted the boy’s mother. According to lawyers for the mother, the boy is a healthy child who was on the honor roll and active in school activities. In a similar case that occurred nearly ten years ago, threeyear-old Anamarie Regino was placed in foster care in New Mexico due to her excessive weight. However, Regino and her family insist that the incident did more harm than good. “They say it’s for the well-being of the child, but it did more damage


than any money or therapy could ever to do to fix it,” Adela Martinez said. While in the care of the state, Regino failed to lose any weight and was later diagnosed with a genetic predisposition to obesity. Some experts, including Dr. Arthur Caplan, a professor of bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania, have also questioned the logic in removing a child from his or her family. “A 218-pound 8-year-old is a time bomb. But the government cannot raise these children. 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,” Caplan told the Plain Dealer. However, Harvard University child obesity expert and associate professor at the Harvard School of Public Health, Dr. David Ludwig disagrees. In an article that ran in the Journal of the American Medical Association, Ludwig put forth the idea that state intervention is beneficial in certain cases concerning childhood obesity. According to Ludwig, action needs to be taken. Obese children may not be in imminent danger but obesity can lead to conditions that can ultimately lead to death. Despite the varying opinions on the state’s actions, the thirdgrader will remain in state custody until later this month when a trial is set to determine whether he can go home with mother.

Is Childhood Obesity a Form of Neglect?  

While the issue of childhood obesity certainly needs to be addressed, Ohio’s latest attempt at tackling the problem is far from effective.

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