Mother Jailed For Allowing Teenager To Reach 555 Lbs. - U2 Feedback

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Old 06-27-2009, 08:32 PM   #1
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Mother Jailed For Allowing Teenager To Reach 555 Lbs.

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CBS News, June 25


A mother is being charged with neglecting her obese teenage son, raising issues about whether the government has the right to intervene in one's family life.

Born and raised in South Carolina, Alexander Draper grew up to reach a dangerous 555 pounds by the age of 14. That's when law enforcement stepped in. "The first and foremost concern is Alexander's health," Lt. Shea Smith told CBS News.

Alexander's mother, Jerri Gray, was charged with unlawful neglect of a child for allowing him to become obese. "There have been opportunities to get Alexander some treatment over the course of the last several months and unfortunately some of those things have not been taken advantage of," Smith said. But Gray, released from jail Monday on $50,000 bond, says she does not have enough money to get her son the treatment he needs.

Alexander is in the custody of the Department of Social Services, who in a statement to CBS News said they only intervene when "health care professionals believe a child is at risk of harm...Obviously her son is certainly in need of some medical attention," Lt. Smith said.

Jerri Gray and her defense attorneys, Kim and Grant Varner, appeared on The Early Show Thursday to discuss the situation. Asked how his weight gain got so out of control, Gray said, "Well, a lot of times it had to do with lifestyle. A lot of times I had to work fulltime second shift or fulltime, third shift. And I wasn't home a lot." Gray told guest host and "Britain's Got Talent" judge Amanda Holden she had been monitoring her son's diet, but that there were times she had to purchase fast food, when she'd have to sleep between shifts. Asked if there are steps she could've taken earlier to have helped him not reach that level of weight, Gray said, "When I had a second shift hob, I would've rather been home, so that I could've spent more time focusing on preparing more low-fat type-meals."

While Alex is under state care right now, Gray believes her son needs to be with her. "Mentally he needs to be with me. We both need to be included together in whatever program that they have to offer so that we both can benefit from it. So as our lives go on together, then we will have learned how to control it and keep it under control."
(CBS' website has a video clip briefly reviewing the story followed by the brief interview with the mother--who is clearly also obese, though nowhere near as badly as the boy.)

From Googling for a couple other articles on this story, it sounds as if there may still be some dispute as to what extent the mother failed to cooperate with Social Service directives to get her son into a professional weight-loss program...she asserts that when she tried to enroll him in a local hospital's pediatric weight-loss program which they'd referred her to at one point, she was told he was too overweight for what the program was intended for; while Social Services asserts that they'd secured him an expenses-paid slot in an inpatient pediatric weight-loss program in New Hampshire at another point and she refused to send him away. Apparently her lawyer also intends to argue that there was past evidence the boy may have underlying medical problems exacerbating his weight gain, and that this wasn't properly followed up by either his doctor or Social Services.

In principle, Social Services' response here seems reasonable enough to me, except for the fact that they're apparently not allowing Ms. Gray to visit or even telephone her son (perhaps for security reasons--she'd initially fled the state with him to keep them from taking him--but it's a bit hard to see how this could be 'good' for him). Extreme obesity is a dangerous medical condition, and people with dangerous medical conditions need help now, not just good intentions and occasional gestures at doing something. And I don't buy the idea that her work hours unavoidably prevented her from ensuring her son's meals and snacks at home would be healthful enough to prevent extreme weight gain--though I can certainly see how her wish for a program geared towards families rather than individuals (perhaps, for instance, with meal planning and preparation tips for parents who've never been taught how to feed multiple people healthfully on a budget) might be an excellent, even essential, resource here.
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Old 06-27-2009, 08:35 PM   #2
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Wow this mother sounds like she has some issues...

I think Social Services were completely within their right on this one.
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Old 06-27-2009, 11:57 PM   #3
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Wow this mother sounds like she has some issues...

I think Social Services were completely within their right on this one.
Who are you to judge?
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Old 06-28-2009, 12:12 AM   #4
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Who are you to judge?
Do you believe Social Services should intervene when a mother is starving their child?
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Old 06-28-2009, 12:18 AM   #5
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what a sad sad story

Mum clearly needs some help

the kid definitely needs some help and from the little I've read it would seem that perhaps the childs interests have become secondary to an 'I'm right' 'No, I'm right' argy bargy between social services and lawyers
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Old 06-28-2009, 12:19 AM   #6
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pro choice -- the choice to eat!
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Old 06-28-2009, 12:37 AM   #7
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hmm . . . the choice to eat?

if the choices on offer where comparable in price and nutrition I'd absolutely agree with you . . .but often times they are not

genetically modified foods are often cheaper than their organic counterparts

its a particular bug bear of mine though that 'healthy' choices are so much more expensive than the foods that, in my mind, should be 'treat' foods

costs me $15 (aus) to feed my 3 kids at macdonalds or pizza hut in the local shopping centre food court

costs me upwards of $45 to purchase fresh squeezed orange juice, salad sandwiches and healthy sandwich wraps at same food court

it pisses me off and I know that when cash is tight and I'm time poor I'll sometimes head for the 'crap' food over the healthy food cuz maybe the electricity bill won't get paid that week if we spend that extra $20 or $30 on the good stuff

am I derailing the thread - apols if I am, don't mean to - just ticks me off - maybe this is part of the problem this mum found herself in time and again?

and no, it is no excuse in the end . . .but this stuff can never be purely black or white can it?
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Old 06-28-2009, 12:42 AM   #8
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pro choice -- the choice to eat!
You honestly think it's as simple as that?

If this were not a 14 year old I would be more inclined to agree with you...
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Old 06-28-2009, 09:48 AM   #9
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i think at 14, one should be old enough to realize "whoa, im getting fat as fuck, maybe i should do something"
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Old 06-28-2009, 12:03 PM   #10
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Frankly, these services exist for the welfare of the child, not the "rights of the parents." If the parents are incapable of taking care of the child adequately, then that's when the state steps in.
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Old 06-29-2009, 08:28 AM   #11
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555 lbs. is a dangerous weight, for anyone. And there may be several reasons, for this. Family history of obesity, metabolic disorders, thyroid issues, and the brain doesn't tell the stomach, "it's full." The child does need medical attention.
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Old 06-29-2009, 01:35 PM   #12
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That is so sad, and it is unbelievable that he got to that size without any successful intervention. I don't see how putting the mother in jail will be the best thing for Alexander-if it helps him get the help he needs then it is I guess. But the effect of that on a 14 year old, I don't know. And will he think it's his fault?

At a certain point she gave up, I would imagine. Not right but she probably did. At the weight he is now he needs surgery to save his life. I don't know what the minimum age is for that but maybe if he's too young he could lose some weight until the surgery could be done. That is if he can survive it and if it works.

What about all the other people in his life-what did they do?
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Old 06-29-2009, 04:46 PM   #13
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^ Ten bucks says he doesn't have much in the way of other people in his life to begin with, and excessive emotional dependence on his mother is one way or another bound up in the problem. But even if there are several relatives or close family friends who have good relationships with both mother and son and are willing to help, realistically it's pretty tough for someone outside a household to have much impact on the needed lifestyle changes, unless the relevant people in the household truly want and are fully committed to those themselves.

If you ('you' in a general sense here) have a seriously overweight child in your life whom you'd like to help--nephew, niece, in-laws' or best friend's kid etc.--then often one of the best things you can do is try to find regular, nonintrusive opportunities to engage the child in fun physical activity, being creative and flexible about it, because different kids may find very different kinds of physical activity rewarding. If you've got kids of your own who get along well with the child, bring them into it too; after a few fun times playing together, they might for instance encourage the child to join their soccer league or something--sounds corny I know, but this is exactly what happened with a couple friends of our sons, and said friends have gotten in much better shape as a result.

Even if he has successful surgery or whatever, in the longterm supportive lifestyle changes at home are still going to be critical, so one way or another I hope his mother also gets some access to professional counseling on how to achieve that. Unfortuntely, many obese people who've slimmed down will nonetheless continue to have sluggish metabolisms for a lifetime, and for them maintaining progress may take more than just Captain Obvious stuff like not keeping high-calorie snacks around the house.
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i think at 14, one should be old enough to realize "whoa, im getting fat as fuck, maybe i should do something"
In theory, sure, but in practice any kid who gets this obese is for whatever reason clearly unable to effect that mindset in themselves without help. 555 pounds is extreme enough that it wouldn't be at all surprising if this boy has compulsive bingeing problems (not the same thing as liking the snacks a bit too much), or even some rare metabolic disorder, above and beyond having generally lousy nutritional and physical-activity lifestyle habits.
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Old 06-29-2009, 05:04 PM   #14
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^ Ten bucks says he doesn't have much in the way of other people in his life to begin with, and excessive emotional dependence on his mother is one way or another bound up in the problem.
Probably true. And maybe food was used as a substitute-by the mother and the child.
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Old 07-01-2009, 10:42 AM   #15
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Probably true. And maybe food was used as a substitute-by the mother and the child.
Or as a substitute for friends.
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