- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 11, 2001

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) A 500-pound foster father was forced to say goodbye yesterday to three boys he has raised for six years after a court ruled that he is too fat to care for them properly.
Brian Jones, 38, said his inexplicable 200-pound weight gain over the past two years left him unable to defend himself in court, but not incapable of raising the 9-, 10- and 16-year-old brothers he hopes to adopt.
"I told them today, 'I'm not going to abandon you, I will never abandon you, '" he said yesterday after spending the weekend packing up the boys' belongings.
Barely mobile, Mr. Jones said he seldom leaves his house because taxis and wheelchair transportation services cannot accommodate him. Desperate to attend last week's Family Court hearing, he asked furniture stores to drive him in a delivery truck. They refused.
"I'm beyond the shame part now," he said. "I was willing to go in a Sears truck."
Judge Marjorie Mix ordered the children removed after a caseworker reported that Mr. Jones supervises the children mostly from his bedroom and relies on the oldest to do chores like cooking and shopping.
The caseworker, Shirley Bozeman, said that Mr. Jones recently lost his foster-parent certification, that there have been cockroaches in the home and that the children need more activities outside the home and fewer responsibilities inside.
But she said the children are affectionate toward their foster father and wished to remain in the home. The judge granted Mr. Jones visitation rights.
Mr. Jones said he lost his foster-parent certification because his weight prevented him from attending mandatory continuing education classes and because he skipped the required health exams for fear his weight gain would be discovered.
Mr. Jones, who is single, hopes eventually to regain custody of the boys, who have lived with him since being taken from their drug-addicted mother.
Mr. Jones is willing to do anything, including undergo stomach-reduction surgery, to get his weight under control. He has been working with a personal trainer since September and wants the children back in time for the start of the new school year in the fall.
"My goal is to walk into the courtroom and start my adoption petition," he said.
Sandra Solovay, author of the book "Tipping the Scales of Justice: Fighting Weight-based Discrimination," said she has been involved in cases in which children were taken from parents because of the child's weight. Cases in which the parents' weight is an issue are much rarer.
"My immediate concern is, here's someone who wants to have his day in court and is not able to," she said. "That's not a problem necessarily with the foster system, but maybe with the transport, and that's a big issue."
Mr. Jones said authorities have told him not to allow the boys to speak with reporters. He said they are accepting of his weight: "They tell me every day, 'It doesn't matter, Dad.'"

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