Two teenagers have been removed from their parents’ care after social services raised concerns about their weight to a family court judge. The judge, Gillian Ellis, ruled that the children from Sussex be taken into long-term foster care. She described the case as “very sad and unusual”.
Social services staff at West Sussex county council had told a family court judge about their concerns. The local authority had provided Fitbits (fitness trackers) and paid for gym membership for the family, who had also signed up to Weight Watchers.
But Ellis said months after family court proceedings began there had been no reduction in the children’s weight, and they had not provided recordings from their Fitbits or attended the Weight Watchers appointments consistently.
The judge said the children’s parents not seemed to understand the seriousness of concerns raised by social services staff and had failed to set boundaries and promote healthy eating and exercise. She said the children needed the chance to “learn ways of living more healthily” and to improve their health by losing weight.
The judge said there were also concerns about poor home conditions and a lack of guidance on personal care.
“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 the judge in her ruling.
She added: “The case was such an unusual one because the children had clearly had some very good parenting, as they were polite, bright, and engaging.”
Detail of the case emerged in a ruling by Ellis published online on Wednesday. She had considered evidence at a private family court hearing in Sussex last year. The family could not be identified in media reports of the case.
Ellis added: “The children had failed to engage consistently in exercise despite the local authority providing Fitbits and paying for gym membership. The children were supposed to provide recordings from their Fitbits, but this had not been done. 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.”
In 2012, a five-year-old girl was taken into care after her weight reached 10st 5lbs, more than three times the weight of a healthy child her age. She was placed in foster care by Newport council, Wales.
Figures in 2014 disclosed that up to 74 morbidly obese children were estimated to have been taken into care over a five-year period across England, Wales and Scotland.