Should parents lose custody of “Super Obese” kids

Should parents lose custody of super obese kids? Really?!?  How about: No.

Now that we’ve cleared that up; here’s a picture of some adorable fawns:

Pronghorn Fawns

Pronghorn Fawns at Queens Zoo

That isn’t enough of a break down of the above?  You want more than assertions and non-sequitor photos?  *sigh* Okay.

The above-linked article references a letter that just appeared in JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association).  The letter actually starts off somewhat encouraging (if you haven’t read the title of it that is):

Ubiquitous junk food marketing, lack of opportunities for physically active recreation, and other aspects of modern society promote unhealthful lifestyles in children.

By this point I’m thinking: “Okay, awesome.  So we’re talking about working on state initiatives to provide all kids in the US with access to safe recreation spaces and less crap-tastic marketing of “junk” foods.  Maybe that even means addressing concerns of food deserts across our nation!”

But, alas, it is not to be.  No.  The focus of this letter, and thus the article above, is that parents should be superseded by the government and have their children taken away “for their own good” in cases of extreme obesity. Despite the article insisting that the doctor writing this suggestion into the journal:

“said the point isn’t to blame parents, but rather to act in children’s best interest and get them help that for whatever reason their parents can’t provide.”

the implication is still there that this is all really about punishing parents for daring to have (and keep) their Fatty Kids.

Yet, the author of the article is not so kind as the article wants to make you believe. Even in the first paragraph the author of said letter bluntly states that it IS the parent’s fault:

“Inadequate or unskilled parental supervision can leave children vulnerable to these obesigenic environmental influences. “

While I have to grin at the wordification of “obesigenic” (yeah, spell-check doesn’t like either of those two previous big words, fyi) I can see the underlying danger in these sorts of proposed interventions. Not only are we STILL focusing on parents and how any fat kid is basically being abused because their parents (who, for the record, have pretty much a 3/4 chance of ALSO being fat; you know, genetics?) must OBVIOUSLY be doing something WRONG to have a fat child.

Genetic studies have shown that the particular set of weight-regulating genes that a person has is by far the most important factor in determining how much that person will weigh. The heritability of obesity—a measure of how much obesity is due to genes versus other factors—is about the same as the heritability of height. It’s even greater than that for many conditions that people accept as having a genetic basis, including heart disease, breast cancer, and schizophrenia. As nutrition has improved over the past 200 years, Americans have gotten much taller on average, but it is still the genes that determine who is tall or short today. The same is true for weight

I really despise the assumptions and assertions made by Dr Ludlow, the author of this proposal. Not only does it still put the onus of body size upon the heads of parents (mostly Moms; since media loves telling us that mothers are who we all have to raise us, wash our dirty things and feed us, right?); but such interventions as taking kids out of loving homes simply because their body is a certain size, really take that “I know your health just by looking” idea to the extreme.  And that should be very frightening to everyone. What is next?

I also fail to see how picking one-off cases of “OMGSoFAT!” kids and pushing them in ways that supposedly improve health but, at the least, show results of lost weight; is really in the best interest of any of us in this country.

Stop focusing on the minute here people!  If you want to focus on a nation’s HEALTH then stop equating FAT with UN-HEALTH and focus on measures of actual health (as sticky a concept as that is when you come down to it).  How about this, somethings I’ve proposed before here: Access to all kinds of foodstuffs for everyone; safe places for recreation for everyone; freedom from prejudice and oppression for everyone.  THESE are the sorts of initiatives I feel our precious social government funds should be spent upon. Not the demonization of fatness.

If this still doesn’t make your blood boil; think of this as if it were any other disease, as indeed researchers want obesity to be viewed.  Does this mean that thin kids with type 2 diabetes, heart disease or sleep apnea are going to also be taken from their parents?  I mean; those are the same disease markers that triggered the removal of the 90lb 3 year old from her home.

Roughly 2 million U.S. children are extremely obese. Most are not in imminent danger, Ludwig said. But some have obesity-related conditions such as Type 2 diabetes, breathing difficulties and liver problems that could kill them by age 30. It is these kids for whom state intervention, including education, parent training, and temporary protective custody in the most extreme cases, should be considered, Ludwig said. (Emphasis mine)

So, ALL kids with Type 2 diabetes, breathing difficulties, and liver problems (which could kill them by 30!) should be included in this plan, right?  Including the thin ones?  Oh, that’s right.  We only care about the fat ones.  So…caring of you. Right.

The only minor saving grace here is that this Dr. Ludwig of this proposal doesn’t think bariatric surgery is the answer for kids.  Well, hallelujah!  We at least have that; a small voice of sanity saying that maybe cutting into the bodily systems of younglings might, possibly, be more harmful than leaving them to grow and develop naturally. Yay!  How noble of you, kind sirs and madams, to accept that such surgery may, indeed, be more dangerous than is currently understood.  Why, then, is it so difficult to understand the possible ramifications of the ideas you DO propose??

I think I need to look at the small deer-lings again…


17 thoughts on “Should parents lose custody of “Super Obese” kids

  1. Hey! I know! Why not remove children with leukemia from their homes! If their parents knew how to take care of them, they certainly wouldn’t have gotten sick. And let’s swoop down on families who allowed their precious children to have been born with Cerebral palsy or spina bifida! They would have chosen more competent doctors and thus had children without birth defects or birth injuries, if only they had planned on being good parents! (/sarcasm)

    ‘Logic’ of this sort makes the Baby Jesus sob uncontrollably into His Corn Flakes.

    Bring on those fawns, babe. I may need them to bring down my (otherwise textbook perfect) blood pressure in the face of blatant prejudice like this.

    • Yeah Twistie, it totally baffled my mind too; hence the fawns! I mean; how does any of this make sense to enough people that they can keep straight-faced long enough to write an entire letter/article on it?!?! *sigh*

      • To be fair, we weren’t there when they were writing those letters. That means we really don’t know how often they burst into giggles muttering: ‘let’s see who’ll swallow this steaming pile of Hotspur!’

        I’m just saying….

  2. I read a newspaper article on this and one story that stood out to me was about a child whose mother worked two low-paying jobs and fed her child mostly fast food because it was cheap and she didn’t have time to cook. Her child was removed from her care because the child was very fat. What bothers me so much about this (among other things) is that feeding your kids primarily fast food, while not optimal, is not abuse and is not even *considered* abuse unless the kid gets extremely fat. The truth is, many parents feed their kids fast food for varying reasons, and many (probably most) of these children are not extremely fat (or fat at all). For example, growing up, my best friend’s family ate almost nothing but fast food (and her family was middle class and her mother was not single) BUT she and her sister were very thin. So… unless we are going to categorize a fast food diet as abuse (and I don’t think we should), removing this particular child was punishing that family for behavior that many other families engage in just because this particular child had a genetic propensity to gain a lot of weight.

    • Emily, exactly. Also troubling is that instead of offering programs that more fully SUPPORT people who struggle to work 2 damn jobs; they are trying to focus on taking kids away. Come ON! How about social programs that are easier to use for single parents? Day care for those not able to afford the ridiculous costs? Food subsidies that aren’t laughable? So much we COULD be doing with our time and energy and yet the focus is again put onto fat kids and how to “fix” them. (By which, of course, they mean remove fatness….)

  3. I do not watch tv but the other person who lives here does. This morning, the arrogant, self-satisfied heifers who populate “The View” were yammering on (at least until the channel was mercifully changed) about what an excellent idea this is, that parents have a DUTY to provide ONLY ‘healthy’ food, monitor food intake, force their kids to ‘exercise’ more than they want to, take tv & video games away, ad nauseum. One of them was also going on about in her generation, kids ran & played outdoors (as do most kids a lot quite a lot & as indeed I did, despite dealing with the ‘neglect’ of cerebral palsy & familial fatness) & that there were no fat kids back then! That, I know for a fact, is bull, from my own family, from family photos, etc. My sister was born 77 years ago, grew up working & playing hard, including being forced to do a lot of work around the house & care for me when she was not in school after I was born when she was 15, & she was ALWAYS, from the moment of her birth, fat. My mother was born 97 years ago, was breastfed for the first year of her life, was born at 10 pounds, 32 pounds at one year, & kept on growing. We were raised on home-cooked food, including for years fresh & canned vegetables (depending on the season), my siblings were much older than I & there was really no fast food available where I live until I was 17. Yet, all of us, aside from my oldest brother, who is built exactly like our thin father & who can eat 3 times as much as I can, are/have been varying degrees of fat, including from mildly plump to somewhat fat all through childhood. There have ALWAYS been fat people (if you do not believe that, look at such things as statues of the Venus of Willendorf, etc.), there were always fat children, & it really burns my ass when these people think they know all the answers about how others should live & how children should be raised, & when they develop selective amnesia in supporting their arguments.

    Maybe some of us lived in smaller communities then (I grew up in small towns & we always had plenty of fat people of all ages), & we also did not have tv & all forms of media constantly screaming at us, showing us carefully selected images of the most extreme cases of anything, exaggerating, selling programs, deliberately making things look worse than they are. We definitely didn’t have the instant communication of the Internet & the constantly, pounding presence of someone telling us 24/7 that we were wrong, our bodies were wrong, the food we ate would kill us, that this, that, or some other catastrophe was just around the corner. But we fat people were here & we are here to say. None of us should be punished for that, but, most of us, innocent children & the parents who love them should not be punished for what is mostly a normal, natural genetic variation in size & shape. I KNOW about abuse, I lived with all my childhood, but it had nothing to do with being overfed, forced to be fatter than popular wisdom says I was ‘supposed’ to be. Our culture is headed in an extremely dangerous direction, a direction toward losing control of our lives, our bodies, & our rights to raise our own children. And the health, well-being, happiness & self-esteem of our children is in great jeopardy.

  4. This is ridiculous on so many levels it’s making my brain bleed. First, there aren’t enough places to put children who are actually being abused. In many cases the state simply doesn’t have the resources to remove the child to a safer environment (if one even exists). So now we want the state to waste time on this crap? Srsly!?
    Second, what happens if the child is removed and “gasp” doesn’t lose weight? How many different environments are we willing to cycle a child through? Are there going to be a minimum number of calories that even fatty-mcphaterson kids get? You know, starving children is actually considered REAL LIVE abuse.

    More pictures of fawns please.

  5. What an axe to hold over the heads of children whose bodies do not perform as required. When I was a kid, it was “You better behave yourself/be obedient/don’t make a scene, or you’ll get taken and sent to an orphanage.” Now, it’ll be “You better starve yourself/make yourself vomit/volunteer to have your stomach cut out/stop doing sports/take Speed… or else.”

    It will be a great (for a given value of) field study about how many or how few kids are truly resistant to eating disorders. I’d imagine it to be a very low percentage.

  6. It would be very interesting to see what these proponents of “take the fat kids away” would say if all their re-education and forced dieting attempts failed and the kids either didn’t lose any weight or lost not enough for their liking. At that point, they shouldn’t even blame it on the kid because they were away from the home, the alleged problem in the first place.

    I think we as a society should be worried more about kids who are suffering actual abuse—physical, sexual, verbal, mental—not threatening to remove children from possibly good homes simply because their bodies aren’t small enough for a doctor’s liking. Also, this reeks of class warfare, since the majority of the fat-ranters have enough money to buy healthier foods and probably live in areas where you can exercise and be active, whereas many of the fat children come from poorer neighborhoods where there may be less access to both “fresher foods” and places to play, as well as many parents who rely on public transit to get from point A to point B and if you’ve used it, you know how unreliable it can be sometimes. Before we start coming up with harsh tactics to shame these families, we (and I mean the doctor and people who think like him) need to take a closer look at the factors that influence whether kids will be big, and I don’t mean McDonald’s and video games.

  7. The whole idea is preposterous. In order for it to happen, you have to have foster homes where a) the parents are both thin, b) all the other kids are thin, c) they eat food that is radically different from what the child is used to eating, and probably about a zillion times more expensive, too. So they don’t just want these kids in foster homes, they want them in RICH, THIN foster homes, where nobody is offering to be a foster parent in order to get a check because they don’t need the extra money. And of course, they’ll need to have backups, since foster parents will keep getting booted out of the system for failing to slim the kids down. Yeah. Hahahahaha.

  8. Amen. Generally speaking, rich people do not offer to be foster parents & a lot of foster parents are primarily motivated by the extra income. And this program which is proposed is going to be something else administered & paid for by the government, the same government which is currently fighting over the budget &, at the moment, threatening many of us who cannot work & who DEPEND on monthly social security deposits for most or ALL of our income, with no social security deposits in August because of supposedly inadequate funds. This country really NEEDS a totally unnecessary, harmful, & almost completely ineffective government program at this time.

  9. How disgusting. There are kids abused in their homes, starved and dying for lack of intervention, and this letter writer thinks it’s more important to police fat kids and their families?

    This is just beyond reprehensible.

    • Everyone here has been adding such wonderful comments on this! Indeed, finding ways to actually foster all of the ACTUALLY abused children that are in the system seems to me a much higher concern than addressing the fat children perceived to be “overfed and underworked”. And honestly I wonder if rich parents with similarly fat genes and children will be under such close scrutiny. Hmmm…

  10. Good point, April, because while people are always saying that rich people are generally thinner, presumably because they can afford to work harder at it, there are indeed some fat rich people & rich people who have fat children. Yes, rich people can afford ‘better’ food, if you ascribe to the idea of ‘good’ or ‘bad’ foods, which I do not, but since body size & shape are about 80% determined by genetics, ‘better’ food & more exercise, expensive exercise equipment, even personal trainers, will not always guarantee thin bodies. I have never been rich, but I have been active my whole life, with several long periods of exercising compulsively 4 or more hours daily, definitely ‘working harder’ at it, but ‘working harder’ did not make me thin & in fact, may have made me a bit fatter than I might have been had I not always worked so hard at it. However, my family is genetically fat, & I am now nearly 62 & post-menopausal, so I am likely fairly close to the size I was supposed to be at this age anyway. Money may not always be able to buy you a ‘perfect’ body, but it can in many ways buy you more of a ‘pass’ in this world & more of a chance to live on your own terms.

    And, yes, as a parent, grandparent, & an abuse survivor, I am all for concentrating the time, energy, & money on protecting/caring for the children who actually NEED help

    • Patsy, you’ve probably hit the nail on the head with this: “Money may not always be able to buy you a ‘perfect’ body, but it can in many ways buy you more of a ‘pass’ in this world & more of a chance to live on your own terms.” Summing up nicely where I fear initiatives like this will lead: to ignoring or giving a pass to those who can afford to have folks “ignore” them (and their fat children?) and focusing on harshly coming down on the classes where such avoidance is not so easily bought.

      So much wrong with these ideas on taking loved children from homes due to body sizes. Time, energy and money that could be so much better spent, as you said, on those who really need help! But then, you can’t necessarily just LOOK at a kid who is being emotionally or otherwise abused and “Know” their story; making sorting that out so much more work than just pointing fingers at fatties. Perhaps part of the issue is that Fat is so much easier to SEE when compared actual child abuse that it would be easier to seem like folks are Doing SomethingTM? Just a thought…

  11. Paraphrasing what I wrote on another site, here’s what I would like to see instead:

    1. Declare victory and come home from our three(!!) wars, the way we did in Vietnam. Use the money spent on killing our kids and their civilians for promoting life instead.

    2. Playgrounds within a few hundred meters of every zero-lot-line residential property in America. Pay people who lost their jobs in the Great Recession to build them and make petty criminals doing community service keep them clean. Call it The Playground Initiative.

    3. A cop on every corner. Heavily promote a nostalgic view of cops as the first person little kids go up to when they’re lost. Channel former war funds into retraining/replacing cops in cities where that is manifestly not true. Send your kids out with a sandwich for the afternoon! Don’t worry, they’re safe! Every Street Is Sesame Street.

    4. Subsidize grocery store chains sending vans stuffed with WIC-eligible food into neighborhoods where people are eligible for WIC but the logistics of getting to the store are impossible. Families get food and the stores get the WIC checks plus a bit extra.

    5. The Mom and Pop Program. If a small business opens a store that sells food in a recognized food desert, the owner gets a 50 percent refund on federal income tax for each year the store is open, with a 3- or 5-year limit. During that period, if the store shows a profit, the refund is 100 percent.

    6. Along with that, how about the Pushcart Program? Sell nutritious (filling!) food from a cart or van and get a subsidy. Imagine a repurposed ice cream van that sells wedges of cantaloupe and watermelon cut to be easy for little hands to hold, or watermelon balls frozen on a bamboo skewer, or sandwich bags containing 10 jumbo olives (one for each finger and thumb). Each portion could be cheaper than an ice cream bar and the vendor could still turn a profit. Park them outside the schools in the afternoon. (I got this idea from an article about a similar program in Indonesia.)

    • Wow. My vote to Jenny Islander to propose fantastic new initiatives. Do you know if any of those options might actually be viable options even without withdrawing from the war (which I’m unfortunately not holding my breath about)? I’d love to find out how to get some programs like the grocery vans going across our nations vast food deserts!!

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