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Mother of Obese Teen Charged With Criminal Neglect

Jerri Gray, the mother of a 14-year-old boy who weighs 555 pounds, has been charged with felony child neglect by South Carolina. Her son has been taken to foster care, and she faces 10 years in prison for putting her son at risk by neglecting his medical needs. Gray, who works three jobs, has told the media that her son got so overweight because she could not keep track of what he was eating.

Gray was a fugitive this past Spring, going to Maryland with her son while authorities attempted to bring the abuse charges. At that time, South Carolina's Department of Social Services said: "This agency doesn't get involved in such cases based on a child's weight alone, but will take action in cases where health care professionals believe the child is at risk due to the parent's possible neglect in providing medical care."

Still, Gray's attorneys say the case could potentially set a dangerous precedent that could, for example, be used to charge parents of anorexic children. If you can charge a parent for a kid being overweight, could you charge parents with underweight children too?

Should childhood obesity be considered grounds for charging a parent with child abuse?

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dikke-kus dikke-kus 7 years
Spacekatgirl I liked what you wrote. Simple and to the point. Smack83 I read your comment. I assume you don't have kids. The school can control what he eats because you have a set amount of money you give the cafeteria. You get one tray of food for the day. They have computer systems now and when they get to the end of the line the information is there for each child about diabetics and food allergies and all information. They do that for my son at his school since he is not allowed dairy. As far as stealing food at lunch from friends who do you think is going to go along with that? Those kids are going to get upset and report it to mom that a 500 lb bully ate his cookies. The school would get hell from the mom and the cafeteria attendants would end it. Also how is he going to sneak food at home if you give a dam about what he can get his hands on? I didn't suggest visiting the school everyday, just once in a while, after all her kid's life is at stake. But then she didn't do that did she? At 550 lbs he could die soon. But what did she care? She had her jobs to think about and then she can just take some time off to bury him after he dies of a heart attack according to you. Then you point the finger at a the boy as he suffers. You underestimate how much can be done as a parent and professionals who care.
Chouette4u Chouette4u 7 years
I'm looking at this from a legal/CPS perspective. If you're under 18 and you damage someone's property, it's ultimately your parents' responsibility to pay for it, and if you're under 18 and you need medical care, it's your parents' responsibility to provide that for you. 550 lbs is so much more than 200 lbs in the effect it can have on your health and the extreme number of calories that have to be consumed in order to maintain that weight. I'm not trying to place any value on how it feels emotionally to weigh 550 lbs versus 200 lbs. It might not be possible for her to be present during every meal, but if the mother is not able to monitor his weight and diet enough to keep him out of the scarily morbidly obese spectrum or neglects his overall medical care, she's just not capable of having custody of him. And depending on the details, I could see how she could be charged with criminal neglect.
dani17731 dani17731 7 years
Chouette4u-I don't agree. And what makes 18 such a magical number anyway? Take a look at the other examples I gave: drugs, pregnancy, etc. Do you really believe that if I am 550 pounds the day before I turn 18 that I am any less responsible than the next day when I turn 18? I don't see how because I'd still be 550 pounds. And no I wasn't that obese but when you've grown up overweight it all feels the same. Did you grow up overweight? If not, please don't presume to know what it's like, and don't assume that a child's parent can watch them for every meal, because it's not realistic.
Hiding55 Hiding55 7 years
Has anyone noticed that kids don't go outside and play anymore like we used to? I remember going outside for hours and hours and getting lots of exercise as a kid and we definitely ate a lot of candy and other junk food and we didn't drink diet soda. I think the key to fighting childhood obesity is getting kids to be more active instead of sitting indoors playing video games all the time. I firmly believe that it's the parents responsibility unless there is an underlying medical condition. Parents are responsible for raising healthy children. Isn't that a given?
Symphonee Symphonee 7 years
He is 14 and very clearly has an eating disorder but it becomes her fault because she was not completely attentive due to working three jobs. Honestly the reports are conflicting because some say that she was following what the nutritionist said, others say that she did not let her son participate in programs designed to help this issue. I don't think that jail time is the answer. The boy needs help. make it mandatory. I don't think that she is rolling in enough dough to keep him that big if she works three jobs.
Smacks83 Smacks83 7 years
Janneth, I didn't mean he could hide being 550lbs from his mom, but I'm guessing he hid extra food he brought home or hid the fact he was eating tons of junk outside of the home. And for the person who said that the mom should have just called the school and told them what her son is supposed to be eating (sorry, I forget who posted it) then I feel like the school is going to ask how are they supposed to keep track of a 14yr sneaking food from friends (or buying a lot and eating it quickly) because then it gives the same rights to other parents who can now complain that the school needs to monitor what their child eats/does not eat (otherwise its preferential treatment) and in a lunchroom of like 300 kids and about 4 or 5 adults watching out for possible fights/weapons/drug use how are they now supposed to watch food intake? Also, i know lots of parents that only have one job that can't visit their kid's school everyday at lunch (and as for asking his friends, well they said in the article those were the kids giving him extra food sometimes so I doubt they would want to "rat" out their friend. Its just the mentality (kinda like friends of cutters or anorexics or bulimics, very rare for any of them to go to their friend's parents saying "look, i think so-and-so has a problem".) To be honest, I hope this kid finally sees how his selfish behavior has possibly wrecked his family.
CaterpillarGirl CaterpillarGirl 7 years
I dont think she belongs in jail, but she is responsible for the state of her child and BOTH of them need to get help, see a nutritionist, get counseling, parenting classes etc. No reason for a child to be 550 pounds and there is no excuses.
GratefulGrl80 GratefulGrl80 7 years
I don't believe that this woman belongs in jail. This is a comment from the story in the NY Daily News that I think is spot on...: "There's certainly parental enabling, but, the mom is also obese, and she needs to be counseled. If she's a single mom, working and struggling, it's more difficult to police the kid's behavior, when she's too tired and maybe unwilling to eat healthy. We often equate food with comfort and love. Obesity is the most prevalent health crisis in our society. I see fatter and fatter children, who no longer play outside, but, come home from school and live indoors. Instead of prosecution, she needs nutritionists and a trainer to start with her own sense of self-esteem, health and welfare. There's nothing more satisfying that to be fit, eat healthy and feel well. She's as much of a victim of our fast food and inactive culture as her son." She definitely needed to do SOMETHING when she saw him getting bigger and bigger, but putting her in jail is not going to help anybody. Maybe put him in foster care for a while, get him started with a counselor and nutritionist. Try to help and solve the problem instead of prosecute.
RoaringSilence RoaringSilence 7 years
I think people like this not only need to be punished, but also educated. I wish there were free classes for parents to be, both on nutrition and parenting. Situations like this probably have to do with both, the mother doesn't know what is healthy, and has no clue how to establish her authority.
dikke-kus dikke-kus 7 years
The situation got to where it was because no one cared including her. She had three jobs doesn't say anything to me. She should have been hit over the head with a hammer. You can pick up the phone and tell the school what he eats and what he doesn't. You can visit the school during lunch hour. You can make sure he eats healthy in the evenings. You can ask his friends whats going on with him. You can control what you have at home to eat. With three jobs you can put him into a swimming class everyday. Or a karate class or a one on one exercise program. You can tell his teachers and other instructors his situation. At this point you could also confer with a doctor for a diet program, or diet drugs. If your son's health and life is at stake you would make that your priority.
hypnoticmix hypnoticmix 7 years
I disagree with the charges on the grounds that today we know of a few reasons why people become obese some are completely different from the others and some have overlapping factors. The question is do the authorities know which factors they're dealing with in this child. Now as for the mother I'm not letting her off the hook either. She claims that because she has three jobs she can't keep track of what he eats. Now this is a complete assumption from my perspective here but I presume she buys the groceries and supplies (what) he eats. It sounds as though this family and our tax dollars would be better served if they are educated about their options. Not to mention the notoriety from this story may inspire a gym or a trainer to offer to work with her son for free. The bottom line is there are much better options than separating this mother and child.
totygoliguez totygoliguez 7 years
I agree with indigo, it should be case by case basis. In this case the kid should not be with the mother, but is a little extreme to sentence her to 10 years in prison. The appropriate thing to do in my opinion is to take the child away from her, force her to take nutrition and parenting classes, and depending on her success on those classes then the judge should reconsider whether or not she should be given a second chance. I agree with anonymous #22 at that age you should know better, but as a mother you are responsible of supervising your kids action and you should make sure that he is on the right track.
cfp cfp 7 years
It sounds like the mother DID try to get him to eat a healthy diet and lose weight. But when he wasn't in front of his mother he was eating unhealthy foods. So in that case, if he went to school and ate whatever he wanted...let's charge his school with neglect because they didn't stop the fat kid from eating junk. Let's charge the fast food restaurants he went to while his mom was working one of her THREE jobs. They let him eat their unhealthy foods, therefore contributing to his obesity. When the mother wasn't there because she was working to support him I can't believe that she could be charged with this. This is beyond ridiculous. There is only so much a parent can do. By all accounts, this mother did try to help her son be healthy. What else was she supposed to do?
janneth janneth 7 years
But smacks83, how do you hide 555 pounds? I mean, it's so extreme.
Chouette4u Chouette4u 7 years
"At what point does the child take responsibility for their own actions?" When they turn 18. "I'm not trying to sound heartless, because I was an overweight kid too. I was a chubby kid, a fat teenager, and just recently started losing weight when I started college. I can't blame my mom because I couldn't stop eating. " But were you 550 lbs? There's a big difference between being 200 or even 300 lbs as a kid and being over 500 lbs. And from what it sounds like, he had additional health problems that the mother was not taking care of properly.
dani17731 dani17731 7 years
I think it's just an easy way out to blame the parents. You can try to blame parents when their kid is too fat, too skinny, on drugs, pregnant, failing school, and it goes on and on and on. At what point does the child take responsibility for their own actions? Like many of you have said, parents can try to do right by their kids but once they reach a certain age it's hard to watch them every second of every day. This kid is 14. 14!! He's old enough to know that what he's doing is killing him. I'm not trying to sound heartless, because I was an overweight kid too. I was a chubby kid, a fat teenager, and just recently started losing weight when I started college. I can't blame my mom because I couldn't stop eating.
Chouette4u Chouette4u 7 years
"I think social services should do some investigating and offer help rather than just condemn the mother and ship the kid away to a foster home." From what the article says, that's what it sounds like they tried to do, but then she missed a court date, took her son, and skipped town.
cakeshinigami cakeshinigami 7 years
I think social services should do some investigating and offer help rather than just condemn the mother and ship the kid away to a foster home.
Amanda-La Amanda-La 7 years
I think it's difficult to say whether or not she really is at fault. But there's only so much she could do if she was really following the health expert's advice. She had to work. And working even one job is hard I can't imaging three. That alone shows she knows how responsible she is for him and loves him. Putting someone in prison for ten years is unthinkable to me though. Her life already sucks, so, make it worse? Take away her kid and throw her in prison where she won't see him again until he's an adult and what if while she's in prison he continues to eat like he is. Unless he has a parent or guardian or nurse handcuffed to his wrist 24/7 the kid is going to continue to sneak food. Putting the mother away is not going to fix the child's psychological problem it's only going to give him another one.
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