Obese 9-year-old returns
His story has compelled donations from community organizations concerned about his well-being. But it will be up to the boy and his family to make sure he doesn't regain the weight and end up in court again after a juvenile judge in Cleveland released him from protective supervision on Thursday.
The boy, who was placed in foster care last fall and then spent three months living with an uncle, lost about 50 pounds through exercise and healthy eating. He was returned to his mother under protective supervision in March.
Social service workers still plan on checking in with the boy and his mother in Cleveland Heights and have offered them nutritional and health counseling.
"We will remain involved as long as the mother allows us to remain involved," said Mary Louise Madigan, spokeswoman for Cuyahoga County Children and Family Services. "She doesn't have to allow anything anymore, because essentially the two years has passed, legally we're at the end of the line."
The boy was removed from his family over health concerns and placed in foster care in October after Cuyahoga County case workers said his mother wasn't doing enough to control his weight. The county's Children and Family Services agency said it had worked with the family for more than a year before he was removed.
The boy was considered at risk for developing diabetes or high blood pressure. Government growth charts say most boys his age weigh about 60 pounds. He weighed as much as 218 pounds, but dropped to 166 pounds when he was with his uncle.
He was placed in his uncle's custody in December on the day he celebrated his ninth birthday.
The goal all along was to get him back with his family, said John Lawson, an attorney who was appointed by a judge to act as a guardian during the court proceedings.The uncle took him to the gym three nights a week, Lawson said. The boy also began swimming and playing basketball and is doing well despite changing schools and homes several times in recent months, Lawson said.
The boy is continuing to exercise, and his mother recently found a job, which should help with the family's financial stability, Lawson said.
The YMCA donated a membership, and the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People gave the family some exercise equipment and a scale.
"That's the tremendous thing," Lawson said. "Let's hope we never have to go back to court with this child. Hopefully, everything is on track."
The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio opposed placing the boy in foster care.
Placing the boy with his uncle and getting him a gym membership and exercise equipment should have been done before he was sent into foster care, said James Hardiman, an attorney with the ACLU in Cleveland.
"That was all done by people concerned about him," Hardiman said "We are happy the county is no longer involved in the family's business."
The guidelines will recommend that waist size become a standard measurement, along with height and weight, and the data be used in a national surveillance system that can track obesity.
Researchers say doctors often fail to measure abdominal fat, a key indicator of diabetes, coronary and immune system risks.
The new guidelines also include routine blood sugar measurements for overweight patients after age 10; a two-hour-a-day limit on computer and television viewing; and in-office counselling on diet and exercise for overweight patients.
The guidelines, published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, mark Canada as the first country to develop a comprehensive set of guidelines to prevent and manage obesity.
"The new guidelines send a clear message both to health professionals and policy makers that obesity really is a chronic disease and (should) be addressed as a chronic disease," says Dr. Arya Sharma, a McMaster University medical professor and one of the report's key organizers.
"Unfortunately, it's very often the case that obesity is done away with as a lifestyle flaw, that it's not really a medical issue, it's really a cosmetic issue," says Sharma, director of the federally funded Canadian Obesity Network.
The report's 76 guidelines were developed over two years by a panel of experts under the guidance of the non-profit Obesity Canada group. The guidelines also recommend:
Do you have any success tip(s) that have helped you make it through the many temptations of the standard American diet; especially the last month of being inundated with holiday gatherings?
It has helped me to remember that much of the stuff I "think" I want to eat is really, really bad for me; and if I eat it, I’ll most likely end up back in the same place where I started. I NEVER want to be there again in my life. I have also posted on the Member Center whenever I've had urges or cravings to eat unhealthy food (instead of eating it.) I’ve established this habit and it has been a tremendous tool to help me succeed.
His mother continues to deny that she is to blame for her son’s weight.
“They are trying to make it seem like I am unfit, like I don’t love my child,” the boy’s mother told the Plain Dealer newspaper. “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.”
He should weigh about 60 pounds, based on his height and his age, government workers said.
“We have worked very hard with this family for 20 months before it got to this point,” the agency’s administrator, Patricia Rideout, said, adding that a judge approved the decision to put the boy into foster care.