Here’s a new one for all you parents out there. Child obesity rates have become so bad that young kids are being diagnosed with diabetes and sleep apnea related to their obesity and unhealthy lifestyles and eating habits. Despite being ill, some of these obese children and their parents haven’t taken care to change eating habits and physical activity, both of which are recommended by their pediatricians.
A new and somewhat shocking suggestion came to pass as a result of this problem: Take obese children away from their parents!
My first thought when I read the headline this morning was that this was an insane way to try and manage child obesity rates and the health risks associated with it. But after thinking for a little while about it, I’m sorry to say that it started to make a little sense.
If a child is morbidly obese and the parents do nothing to change their child’s eating habits and physical activity even in the sight of severe and life threatening health problems like diabetes and sleep apnea, isn’t that refusal to take action a form of child abuse or neglect?
If a parent was puffing smoke in the face of an asthmatic child, worsening their symptoms and putting them in the hospital due to life endangerment, we would snatch that child away quickly and resist the urge to punch the parent in the face. Heck, if the kid wasn’t an asthmatic, we’d probably be tempted to do the same.
What’s the difference between cigarette smoke in the face of an asthmatic child and fattening foods being given to an already obese and incredibly sickly child? While a hamburger in the hands of an otherwise healthy child who gets a good amount of physical activity and doesn’t have any serious weight problems isn’t so bad (it’s not healthy, but it’s not going to kill them), a hamburger in the hands of a child with obesity issues and health problems as a result is like handing a peanut butter sandwich to a child who is allergic to peanuts. It’s potentially deadly.
Most of us think it’s horrible when parents don’t make sure their kids are eating healthy meals more often than unhealthy meals (we all take trips through the drive thru when we are desperate, but it shouldn’t be a daily thing), and many of us shake our heads when we see an already morbidly obese child stuffing his face with french fries and a milkshake. We consider those parents to be bad parents, at worse, and uneducated and lazy at best. But a lot of us draw the line when it comes to allowing social services to take those children away from their parents.
If a child is just plain fat, but has no other health problems, should the child be removed from his/her parents’ custody? I say no. The child is built differently from his peers (there are different body types, and some people are just thicker no matter what they eat, and I don’t care who disagrees with me. This is a fact.)
If a child is obese and has severe health problems but the parents are taking every step and following the recommendations of the pediatrician to ensure that the child loses weight to get healthier, should the child be removed from his/her parents’ custody? I say no, because the parents are doing what is necessary to make their child well again.
If a child is morbidly obese and suffers from severe health problems such as sleep apnea or diabetes, but the parents are ignoring the recommendations of pediatricians and allowing their children to continue lying around all day watching TV and playing video games, not ensuring the child gets enough physical exercise and continue to give the obese child unhealthy foods that are greasy, fried, sugary, and unhealthy, should social services take that child away? I say that, in extreme cases, yes, because that is a case of child neglect in my opinion. The parents are risking the life of that child by continuing to allow and encourage unhealthy behavior.
Of course, it’s better for parents to keep their children and for families to stay together, and doctors and families should work together to make sure that happens. A child being removed from his home is never the first step and should be avoided at all costs except when the child is in obvious danger.
Children are removed from their parents’ homes in cases of hoarding, a psychological disorder that causes people to keep too many things that are useless and often health hazards. These homes become dangerous because the children are at risk of having large piles of stuff falling on top of them, resulting in injuries, falling down stairs because they are too cluttered, and being exposed to bio-hazards such as dead animals, fecal matter, mold and mildew spores that aren’t discovered due to the extreme mess. This is unhealthy behavior that the parents can’t, don’t or won’t change, and it puts the children’s health at risk. These children are often removed if steps aren’t taken to make the home cleaner and healthier. I believe allowing a child to remain obese and sick and not taking necessary steps to make them healthier is the same as allowing a child to continue living in a filthy environment.
Question: What is your opinion? Should Child Obesity be considered Child Neglect or Endangerment? Should obese children with severe health problems be removed from their parents care if the parents fail to take the necessary action to help their child become well again?
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