(CBS) A mother is being charged with neglecting her obese teenage son, raising issues about whether the government has the right to intervene in one’s family life.
Born and raised in South Carolina, Alexander Draper grew up to reach a dangerous 555 pounds by the age of 14. That’s when law enforcement stepped in.
“The first and foremost concern is Alexander’s health,” Lt. Shea Smith told CBS News.
Alexander’s mother, Jerri Gray, was charged with unlawful neglect of a child for allowing him to become obese.
“There have been opportunities to get Alexander some treatment over the course of the last several months and unfortunately some of those things have not been taken advantage of,” Smith said.
But Gray, released from jail Monday on $50,000 bond, says she does not have enough money to get her son the treatment he needs.
Alexander is in the custody of the Department of Social Services, who in a statement to CBS News said they only intervene when “health care professionals believe a child is at risk of harm.”
“Obviously her son is certainly in need of some medical attention,” Lt. Smith said.
Jerri Gray and her defense attorney, Kim and Grant Varner, appeared on The Early Show Thursday to discuss the situation.
Asked how his weight gain got so out of control, Gray said, “Well, a lot of times it had to do with lifestyle. A lot of times I had to work fulltime second shift or fulltime, third shift. And I wasn’t home a lot.”
Gray told guest host and “Britain’s Got Talent” judge Amanda Holden she had been monitoring her son’s diet, but that there were times she had to purchase fast food, when she’d have to sleep between shifts.
Asked if there are steps she could’ve taken earlier to have helped him not reach that level of weight, Gray said, “When I had a second shift hob, I would’ve rather been home, so that I could’ve spent more time focusing on preparing more low-fat type-meals.”
While Alex is under state care right now, Gray believes her son needs to be with her. “Mentally he needs to be with me. We both need to be included together in whatever program that they have to offer so that we both can benefit from it. So as our lives go on together, then we will have learned how to control it and keep it under control.”