A 9-year-old boy removed from his mother's custody after his weight ballooned to more than 200 pounds returned home slimmer with a free gym membership, exercise equipment and even a new scale.
His story has compelled donations from community organizations concerned about his well-being. But it will be up to the boy and his family to make sure he doesn't regain the weight and end up in court again after a juvenile judge in Cleveland released him from protective supervision on Thursday.
The boy, who was placed in foster care last fall and then spent three months living with an uncle, lost about 50 pounds through exercise and healthy eating. He was returned to his mother under protective supervision in March.
Social service workers still plan on checking in with the boy and his mother in Cleveland Heights and have offered them nutritional and health counseling.
"We will remain involved as long as the mother allows us to remain involved," said Mary Louise Madigan, spokeswoman for Cuyahoga County Children and Family Services. "She doesn't have to allow anything anymore, because essentially the two years has passed, legally we're at the end of the line."
The boy was removed from his family over health concerns and placed in foster care in October after Cuyahoga County case workers said his mother wasn't doing enough to control his weight. The county's Children and Family Services agency said it had worked with the family for more than a year before he was removed.
The boy was considered at risk for developing diabetes or high blood pressure. Government growth charts say most boys his age weigh about 60 pounds. He weighed as much as 218 pounds, but dropped to 166 pounds when he was with his uncle.
He was placed in his uncle's custody in December on the day he celebrated his ninth birthday.
The goal all along was to get him back with his family, said John Lawson, an attorney who was appointed by a judge to act as a guardian during the court proceedings.
The uncle took him to the gym three nights a week, Lawson said. The boy also began swimming and playing basketball and is doing well despite changing schools and homes several times in recent months, Lawson said.
The boy is continuing to exercise, and his mother recently found a job, which should help with the family's financial stability, Lawson said.
The YMCA donated a membership, and the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People gave the family some exercise equipment and a scale.
"That's the tremendous thing," Lawson said. "Let's hope we never have to go back to court with this child. Hopefully, everything is on track."
The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio opposed placing the boy in foster care.
Placing the boy with his uncle and getting him a gym membership and exercise equipment should have been done before he was sent into foster care, said James Hardiman, an attorney with the ACLU in Cleveland.
"That was all done by people concerned about him," Hardiman said "We are happy the county is no longer involved in the family's business."
Associated Press writers Tom Sheeran in Cleveland and Kantele Franko in Columbus contributed to this report.