Mother wins back permanent custody of obese Ohio boy
CLEVELAND (Reuters) - An Ohio juvenile court judge removed a protective order on Thursday in the case of a third-grader who was taken from his mother's custody last October after he tipped the scales at 219 lbs (99 kg).
Juvenile court judge David Stucki ruled in favor of a mother's petition to permanently restore the boy to her custody and to close the boy's case with the Cuyahoga County Department of Children and Family Services.
Social workers were alerted to the child's medical situation in March 2010 when the boy, then 7, was hospitalized for two weeks with severe breathing problems.
He was removed from his home by court order in October 2011 after more than a year of supervision, and was eventually sent to live with an uncle in Columbus until April 23 when he returned to supervised-custody with his mother.
The boy is now 9 years old and weighs 173 lbs (78 kg), up from a low of 166 lbs before he returned to his mother's home.
Representatives for the county did not fight the mother's motion for the return of her son in court on Thursday, and the Department of Children and Family Services now has no legal rights or responsibilities as to the boy's living situation.
"It is the right thing to do at this time. The best interest of the child has been protected and supported. The system worked," Stucki told attorneys after making his ruling.
American Civil Liberties Union attorney James Hardiman, who represented the mother, told the judge that since returning to Cleveland the boy has received a free membership to a local YMCA, a Big Brother assignment through the Big Brothers, Big Sisters program and the county will pay for half of the cost of weekly cooking classes for his family.
"We are happy the county terminated protective services. We think the case was ill-advised," Hardiman told Reuters. "Our plan was to get him out of the system as soon as possible. This whole thing has been about his weight with no concern to his emotional state."
Medical professionals, prior to his removal from his mother, had concluded that the boy's weight gain was due to his diet and not other medical reasons. This is the first time an Ohio child had been removed from a parent's custody primarily due to weight concerns.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 17 percent children and adolescents aged 2 to 19 years are obese, as opposed to merely overweight.