A severely obese family in Dundee, Scotland, whose newborn child was briefly taken from them by child protective services while the mother was still recovering in the hospital, is now gaining international attention over the issue of whether childhood obesity can be a sign of abuse or neglect.
The couple, whose names aren't being released, has six children and told the British media that child protection authorities warned them they face losing custody if they could not get their older children's weight under control.
According to The Times of London, authorities already removed two children, aged 3 and 4, from the family home, leaving three other children with the couple. Investigations showed that the 40-year-old mother weighed at least 322 pounds before she got pregnant with her sixth child, a toddler with the family weighed 56 pounds and an older sibling weighed at least 224 pounds by age 13.
The order to remove the baby from the parents, custody was reportedly overturned late last week after the couple promised to work with Dundee protective services to improve the health of all their children.
"My wife is absolutely over the moon, and I am really pleased and relieved too," the father, 54, told The Times of London. "We are going to have to give 110 percent to this and try and work with the social work department and the family's project."
The Dundee City Council, which does not have the final word on whether a child is taken into protective custody, defended the decision to remove the newborn, saying there is more to the case than the family's weight issues.
"We will not comment in detail on any family with whom we are involved, but we have made it clear on numerous occasions that children would NOT be removed from a family environment just because of a weight issue," a press statement from the Dundee City Council read.
"In many cases, social workers will have been providing a high level of professional and caring support to a family for many years in a bid to keep them together. However... in some cases, despite the strenuous efforts of the agencies providing this support, the best option is for them to be looked after away from their home," the statement continued.
America saw a similarly rare case earlier this year when a 14-year-old, 555-pound teen from Greenville County S.C., was removed from his mother's care in a complicated struggle with child protective services.
Authorities say the boy's mother, Jerri Gray of Travelers Rest, S.C., failed to comply with court-recommended treatments for her son's morbid obesity. She and the boy were picked up by police May 21 in Baltimore Md., after the mother failed to appear at a Department of Social Services hearing in Greenville, S.C.
Such extreme cases can often grab the public eye.
But family law experts commenting on the South Carolina case said state officials normally will intervene in the case only if it is a life-and-death situation.