Page last updated at 10:08 GMT, Monday, 12 January 2009

Man told he is too fat to adopt

By Louise Birt
Victoria Derbyshire programme, BBC Radio 5 Live

Damien and Charlotte Hall on their feelings about the ruling

A couple from Leeds have been told they cannot adopt because one of them is too fat.

Damien and Charlotte Hall cannot have children of their own, so they approached Leeds City Council about adopting a child.

They were told Mr Hall's weight, at 24.5 stone (156kg), made him morbidly obese with a body mass index, or BMI, of more than 42.

In a letter, the council told them his BMI must be below 40 before they could be considered as potential parents, because there was a risk he could become ill or even die.

Charlotte, 31, who works as a nanny, has been married to Damien, 37, for 11 years and they have been a couple for 14. Mr Hall works in a call centre and, at 6ft 1in, says he knows he is overweight.

"It's hard to lose weight under pressure, " he told BBC Radio 5 Live.

"I'm not a couch potato and I don't sit eating takeaways every night.

The bottom line is I'm too fat
Damien Hall

"I just feel as though we were only judged on my weight and not all the other good things about us. We don't drink or smoke and we could give a child a happy and safe home."

The letter the couple were sent by Leeds City Council, signed by a team manager and seen by the BBC said: "I am writing to confirm that we are unable to progress an application from you at this time.

"This is due to the concerns that the medical advisers have expressed regarding Mr Hall's weight.

"I have discussed this with our medical adviser... who considers that it is important to alter lifestyle, diet and exercise in a sustainable way so that any weight reduction can be maintained in the long term.

It went on: "I understand that you would like to begin the assessment as soon as possible and while appreciating your reasons for this, I consider it would be more appropriate to begin the assessment once Mr Hall's BMI is below 40."

Child in care

Mrs Hall said they were very shocked when they received the letter. "I think it's just gutting. We had an inkling they'd say something about (his) weight but to be turned down flatly just on that, it's just harsh.

"My husband has a full-time job and is very active. He walks our dog at least twice a day and doesn't feel unfit or unwell.

The council's adoption service has a legal responsibility to ensure that children are placed with adopters who are able to provide the best possible lifelong care

Leeds City Council

"You've got a child in care who's going to get up tomorrow morning not knowing where it's going and we're here ready to take a child on. They seem to be saying it's better for them to be in care and being shoved from pillar to post just in case Damien dies."

Mr Hall added: "The bottom line is I'm too fat. We don't know if there will be any other blocking factors, because that letter is just a reaction to a medical we had which said I'm healthy but overweight."

The Department for Children, Schools and Families said it does not issue guidance on maximum weight for adopters to local authorities.

In a statement, Leeds City Council said: "The council's adoption service has a legal responsibility to ensure that children are placed with adopters who are able to provide the best possible lifelong care.

"Part of this responsibility is advice for applicants on a range of suitability criteria, including any health and lifestyle issues which may impact on an applicant's long-term ability to adopt.

"Expert advice on health and medical issues for applicants is provided by medical advisors to the council's adoption service, in line with BAAF (British Agencies Adoption and Fostering) guidance.

"Mr and Mrs Hall's application to adopt is still active and they have been given advice on how best to proceed regarding this issue."

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