A Canadian dad who's identity is being protected claims he lost custody of his kids because of his size. (CTV)Does a weight problem make you an unfit parent? That's what one dad who lost custody of kids fears. The 360-pound father of two claims his size affected the court's decision to turn his kids over to the state.
The 38-year-old Ottawa man, whose identity is protected by Canada's Child and Family Services Act, plans to appeal a decision to place his two young sons, ages five and six, up for adoption.
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In an exclusive interview with Canada's CTV he claimed family court medical advisers were concerned he was "too fat, and couldn't keep up with my children."
For the past year, the boys have been in foster care, taken from their mother's home after her suspected overdose and mental breakdown. Because of their father's history of legal problems stemming from accounts of public fights and threats, they were placed in the care of the Children's Aid Society.
But over the course of a year, the father has been trying to rectify his past and earn the right to care for his own children. While he admits he hasn't been a model parent on paper, he's convinced it's his struggle with obesity, not his past anger issues, that's left him childless.
While the judge in the case hasn't released an official statement, a doctor's report submitted to the court backs up the dad's claim. The assessment by a clinic adviser warns the man has "struggled with obesity for years, which impacts significantly on most aspects of his life including [his] functioning as a parent." It continues: "He was short of breath or winded in simply walking short distances about the clinic and he lacks both the mobility and stamina required to keep up with young and active children."
But since his custody battle began, the father claims to have already lost 150 pounds and hopes to lose more. Weight shouldn't be the deciding factor in whether a person can parent, claims the dad, though he does believe in living a healthier lifestyle.
(Courtesy of CTV)
"I believe every obese parent out there needs to understand that the quality of life will improve dramatically through weight loss," he told a CTV reporter.
But his battle with his weight is swiftly becoming a war against Canada's justice system.
In addition to plans for an appeal, he's staging a hunger strike today to protest the court's decision.
Obesity has become a recurring figure in the family courtroom. Last year, an opinion piece in the Journal of the American Medical Association created a firestorm, when a leading medical expert called extreme childhood obesity a "justifiable" reason to remove a child from his home. In October that actually happened, when the state separated a 200 pound, 8-year old Ohio boy from his mom until he lost weight. He returned home in May after an extended court battle involving the ACLU.
Should a child's weight enter custody battles?
While kid's dietary habits are being scrutinized in family court, parents' weight hasn't really entered the debate until now. With a third of adult Americans legally obese, according to the CDC, do parents have to worry about losing their children? Could those pounds threaten their ability to parent, and should the courts really have a say?
In terms of adoption, it may already be a major determinant. "When someone has a health risk that could produce a risk to permanency then it has to be looked at," a representative for the National Council for Adoption told ABC News. A few years back, an American man underwent gastric bypass surgery, fearing his weight would make him a less viable candidate for adoption. Not long after the surgery, his adoption went through.
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