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Ohio officials are standing by their decision to remove an eight-year-old boy from his family's home last month because they considered his mother's inability to get the child's ballooning weight under control a form of medical neglect, the Associated Press reports.
Cuyahoga County officials were originally alerted to the situation in early 2010 when the boy’s mother took him to the hospital due to breathing problems. He was diagnosed with sleep apnea, which can be caused by excessive weight, and given a breathing machine to sleep with.
Tipping the scales at over 200 pounds, the third-grader more than triples the 60 pounds that government growth charts deem a healthy weight for boys his age. He is at risk for diseases like diabetes, heart disease, hypertension and high blood pressure.
After monitoring the family for more than a year and a half, case workers last month deemed the boy to be in imminent danger. "We have worked very hard with this family for 20 months before it got to this point," the chief of the county's Children and Family Services agency, Patricia Rideout, told the AP on Monday.
The Cleveland Plain Dealer, meanwhile, spoke to the child's mother, who the paper didn't name in order to protect the identity of the child. "They are trying to make it seem like I am unfit, like I don't love my child," the mother, a substitute elementary school teacher, told the paper. "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."
Although two million US children are extremely obese, including 12 percent of Ohio third-graders, the Plain Dealer notes that this is the first time anyone in the state can recall a child being taken from a parent for a strictly weight-related issue.
The boy is an honor student and participates in school activities, according to the paper, which also reports that the mother sees her son once a week, for two hours.
A judge will rule on what is best for the child at a hearing next month, scheduled for the child's 9th birthday.
Dr. Naim Alkhouri, head of the Cleveland Clinic Children’s Hospital pediatric metabolic clinic, told the AP it’s difficult to determine blame with a complicated matter like child obesity. "It's not only the parents or the child," he said. "Obesity is an epidemic in the United States. As a society we're all responsible.”