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Update: Obesity firmly on horizon in child custody arena

Dr. David Ludwig, an obesity specialist at a Harvard-affiliated hospital in Boston, never intended to become a lightning rod in a debate linking obesity with child custody that is growing in intensity.

We first visited the doctor's comments in a November 1 blog post. One particular statement form Ludwig garnered wide public interest, along with both strong support and criticism.

"In severe cases of childhood obesity," Ludwig stated in a report, "removal from the home may be justifiable."

That is precisely what happened recently in an Ohio community, when a county family services agency removed an 8-year-old boy from his home and placed him in foster care. The agency first needed judicial approval, which a judge readily provided.

Government growth charts estimate the average weight for such a child as being around 60 pounds. The boy, conversely, weighed well more than triple that. Health experts say that, at more than 200 pounds, his risk of developing high blood pressure, diabetes and other debilitating medical conditions was highly elevated.

Is removal justified in such a case? Many family and health experts say that the issue is justifiably sensitive and that involving authorities should be, ideally, a rare and isolated happening. Commonly, experts in the field stress family intervention and education, noting that separation should be reserved as a last-resort option only in the most dire cases.

That is what Ohio officials state was the case in their intervention.

"We worked very hard with this family for 20 months before it got to this point," noted a family services agency administrator.

Source: Boston Globe, "Ohio county takes 200-pound 8-year-old from mother" Nov. 28, 2011

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