By Kim Palmer
CLEVELAND (Reuters) - The mother of a grossly overweight 9-year-old boy had the right to move from Ohio to Georgia with her son, who was temporarily removed from his home last fall to lose weight, a juvenile court judge said on Thursday.
The case of the boy, who at one point weighed 219 lbs (99 kg), sparked a national debate over childhood obesity after Ohio social workers temporarily removed him from his Cleveland-area home last year. He was returned to his mother in April and she agreed to voluntary monitoring for 90 days.
An attorney appointed to represent the boy's interest requested the court hearing because he was concerned for the health and welfare of the boy after losing contact with his mother.
Ohio Juvenile Court Judge John Hoffman Jr said the court's jurisdiction ended in May.
Over a two-year period social workers monitored the boy's weight until a court order removed him from his home last fall. He was returned to his mother's home in April after losing about 50 lbs.
After living with a foster family and then an uncle in Columbus, the boy weighed 166 lbs. He returned to live with his mother and two weeks later when a judge terminated the order that had removed him, he weighed 173 lbs.
In May, the boy's mother agreed to work voluntarily with the county agency to help with the boy's weight loss.
But the boy's mother told a doctor and social workers involved in the case that she and her son have moved to Georgia even though her older son still lives in Cleveland, according to documents filed by John Lawson, the attorney appointed to represent the boy.
"I just want someone to monitor his health," Lawson told reporters after the hearing Thursday. "It is my job to worry about what is best for him and it is my obligation to report it to the court."
An ACLU attorney representing the boy's mother, James Hardiman, argued that the court did not jurisdiction in the case and that re-opening the case would mean the family would be forced to come back to Ohio.
"This is an issue of liberty," he said. "We continue to take issue with the county removing a well adjusted child from his home solely on the basis of his weight."
(Editing by Greg McCune and Lisa Shumaker)