Two teenagers were taken out of their parents’ care after social services raised concerns about their weight to a family judge. Judge Gillian Ellis ruled that the Sussex children should be placed in long-term care. She described the case as “very sad and unusual”.
West Sussex County Council Social Services workers had told a family court judge of their concerns. The local authority had provided Fitbits (fitness trackers) and paid gym membership for the family, who had also signed up for Weight Watchers.
But Ellis said months into the family court case, the children’s weight hadn’t decreased, and they hadn’t submitted any records of their Fitbits or consistently attended Weight Watchers appointments.
The judge said the children’s parents did not seem to understand the seriousness of the concerns of social services workers and did not set limits and did not promote healthy eating and exercise. She said the children needed a chance to “learn ways to live healthier” and improve their health through weight loss.
The judge said there were also concerns about poor home conditions and lack of personal hygiene guidance.
“Everyone agrees that this is a very sad and unusual case of a loving family where the parents meet many of the children’s basic needs, but the local authority was concerned that the parents were failing to meet the children’s health needs that both children are very overweight and the parents are unable to help the children cope with this condition, ”said the judge in her ruling.
She added, “The case was so unusual because the children clearly had very good parenting as they were polite, smart and dedicated.”
Details of the case were disclosed in an Ellis verdict published online on Wednesday. She had examined evidence at a private hearing in a Sussex family court last year. The family could not be identified in media reports of the case.
Ellis added, “The kids had failed to exercise consistently even though the local government agency provided Fitbits and paid for gym membership. The kids were supposed to take pictures of their Fitbits, but that hadn’t happened. The mother blamed Lockdown for the inability to exercise, but exercise could still be taken at home or by walking outdoors. The family attendance at Weight Watchers was inconsistent. “
In 2012, a five year old girl was cared for after her weight reached 10st 5lbs, more than three times the weight of a healthy child her age. She was fostered by Newport Council in Wales.
2014 figures showed that it was estimated that up to 74 morbidly obese children were cared for over a five-year period in England, Wales and Scotland.