Teenagers placed in foster care amid concerns over weight

Joe Lepper
Thursday, March 11, 2021

A family court judge has ruled two overweight teenagers should be taken into foster care over concerns about their health.

The teenagers were described as 'severely overweight'. Picture: Adobe Stock
The teenagers were described as 'severely overweight'. Picture: Adobe Stock

Social workers at West Sussex County Council had become concerned about the health of the children who are described in family court documents as “severely overweight”.

Concerns were also raised around the impact of their weight on their self-confidence and social relationships.

District Judge Ellis sitting in the family court heard that the children had been bullied at school and had “low self-esteem”.

Self-care was also concern with the children found to have dirty nails. Body odour and tangled hair were also noted as concerns.

“Every effort had been made by the Local Authority to encourage regular washing and teeth-brushing but to no avail,” found Ellis.

Social workers had sought to further support the family to help the children lose weight. This had included providing Fitbits and paying for gym membership.

But “the parents did not seem to understand the seriousness of the local authority concerns. They failed to set boundaries for the children, or to promote healthy eating and exercise”, according Ellis.

“The children were supposed to provide recordings from their Fitbits but this had not been done,” Ellis added.

“The mother blamed lockdown for the inability to exercise but exercise could still be taken in the home or by walking outside. The attendance of the family at Weight Watchers had been inconsistent.”

Ellis has approved West Sussex County Council’s application for the children to be moved into long-term foster care.

This application had been opposed by the children’s parents.

“Everyone agrees that this is a very sad and unusual case, of a loving family, where the parents meet many of the basic needs of the children, but the Local Authority has been concerned that the parents are not meeting the children’s health needs, in that both children are severely overweight and the parents have shown an inability to help the children manage this condition,” said Ellis.

Ellis has written a letter to the children to help them better understand why they have been taken into care.

“I know that you love your mother and father very much and I know that they love you too,” said the letter.

“The fact that you are such thoughtful, intelligent, and articulate children is a tribute to the way in which your parents have brought you up. 

“But I am concerned about your health and the way in which your weight impacts on this. We are all much more aware now of the problems that being overweight can cause, problems which can be life-threatening, such as diabetes, heart conditions, and joint problems, or life‑inhibiting, restricting the clothes you can wear and the things you can do.”

The letter adds: “I know you will feel that, in making this order, I am taking something away from you, to be able to live with your mother in your own familiar home, but I would like you to think that I’m giving you something, a chance to learn new ways of eating and exercise which will benefit you for the rest of your life. 

“Everyone understands that if they have a serious illness they may need to spend some time in hospital, and I would like you to consider your move into foster care in the same way, a period away from your home, to help you get better.”


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