Teenagers Removed From The Care Of Their Parents & Placed Into Foster Care By Family Court For Being Severely Overweight

Earlier this month, a Family Court judgment was published which stated that two teenagers, aged 13 and 17, have been removed from the care of their parents due to them being classed as overweight. The children, who have not been named for legal reasons, have been placed in long-term foster care by the Family Court.

West Sussex County Council v A and B [2020] EWFC B62

Case summary

In this case, social services had previously raised concerns with the teenagers’ parents in respect of their children’s weight and provided the family with fitness trackers and paid for gym memberships. The family had also signed up to Weight Watchers.

However, after Family Court proceedings had been commenced, the children’s weight did not reduce. Additionally, the family had not provided recordings from the fitness trackers and had failed to attend Weight Watchers appointments on a regular basis.

Family Court Judge, Gillian Ellis, described the case as “very sad and unusual” and that it seemed as though the teenager’s parents had not understood the seriousness of the concerns raised by social services. Further, they had not set adequate boundaries for the children, nor had they promoted healthy eating and exercise. It is hoped that the children will “learn ways of living more healthily” and will reduce their weight by being placed in foster care.

During the case, concerns were also raised in respect of poor home conditions and personal care, however, social service’s said that the children’s weight was the main reason for them making an application for a care order.

This case was considered at a private Family Court hearing in Sussex last year, with the details of the case being published online earlier this month. In Judge Gillian Ellis’s ruling, she commented:

“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,”

Adding:

“The case was such an unusual one because the children had clearly had some very good parenting, as they were polite, bright, and engaging…

“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.”

According to statistics released in 2014, it was estimated that 74 morbidly obese children were taken into care over a five-year period in England, Wales and Scotland.

Comment

This case highlights the importance of parents engaging with social services advice if they become involved with their children and family under safeguarding procedures – even if they don’t like what social services are saying. If parents don’t engage with social services then this will be seen as a sign that they are not able to meet the on-going and future needs of their children.

If you have been invited to a Public Law Outline (PLO) meeting then you are automatically entitled to free legal advice as you are at risk of having your children removed if the local authority issue care proceedings.

Children Foster Care OverweightHow can Nelsons help?

Melanie Bridgen is a Partner in our expert Children Law team.

At Nelsons, we have a team of highly skilled experts in Derby, Leicester and Nottingham who can represent you at every stage of proceedings. If you require representation or need any advice regarding your circumstances, please contact Melanie or another member of our team on 0800 024 1976 or via our online form, and she will be happy to discuss your circumstances in more detail and give you information about the services that we can provide.