Dad says he's losing custody battle because he's obese
Published Wednesday, June 20, 2012 8:44AM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, June 21, 2012 8:40AM EDT
Can you be too overweight to be a good parent? One Ottawa man says he's losing a custody battle in court because of his obesity.
The 38-year-old, 360-pound man can't be identified under the Child and Family Services Act but agreed to speak to CTV Ottawa if his face was not shown.
He is fighting to gain custody of his two boys, aged 5 and 6, who were seized from his ex-wife's house last year, when she was hospitalized for a mental breakdown and treatment of a suspected overdose.
The two boys are currently in foster care under the protection of the Children's Aid Society. The father hasn't seen either of them in more than a year, though they send him their paintings and drawings, which he has hung up on the walls of his home.
He says all he wants to do is take care of his own children.
"I'm a passionate man, I love my kids, just want a single chance to be a father, that's it," he told CTV Ottawa.
The man is currently in a custody battle with the Royal Ottawa Hospital's family court clinic, which conducts court-ordered assessments on parents to decide if they are fit to take back custody of their children.
"I'm waiting on decision to be handed down by family court if I'll ever see my children again," he says.
The father says his weight is one reason the court won't give him access to his kids.
"One of the reasons they used is because I was too fat, and couldn't keep up with my children," he says
A doctor at the family court clinic told the court that there have been concerns that the man would not be able to care for the boys because his obesity impairs his life:
"(The father) has struggled with obesity for years, which impacts significantly on most aspects of his life including (his) functioning as a parent," the doctor wrote in a recent assessment report.
"He was short of breath or winded in simply walking short distances about the clinic and he lacks both the mobility and stamina required to keep up with young and active children."
The dad says while obesity might cause problems for some parents, it's not a problem for him. He says he once weighed 525 pounds, but since this ordeal began, he's lost more than 150 pounds and is now down to around 360 pounds.
He says the weight loss has already made a big difference to his health.
"I believe every obese parent out there needs to understand that the quality of life will improve dramatically through weight loss," he says.
The stress of this battle is not helping with his weight loss, he says.
"I have a real hard time sleeping, can lie there for hours just thinking where my children are, what they're doing, what I'm missing," he says.
"I am a stress eater. Having them in my life would cause stress, but not having them in my life would cause even more stress."
The father acknowledges he's made some mistakes in the past, running into trouble with the law for fights and uttering death threats, for example. He says he has since taken anger management courses, and has quit using marijuana.
The Royal Ottawa Hospital can't comment on the case, but in a statement, they suggested the case is complicated.
"Every case is unique. Mental and physical issues are examined as well as any special needs of the children," they said.
The dad says his children's paintings of his walls act as a reminder of what he's fighting for, and why he's not willing to give up. He says all he wants is to be reunited with his kids.
"Nothing can be compared to my kids. If I lose my kids for good, it's over for me," he says.
With a report from CTV Ottawa's Claudia Cautillo