Does Obesity Equal Neglect?

An Ohio child was taken from his mother and placed into foster care because of his weight. He is a 200-pound third grader who has been in a doctor’s care and the state intervened about a year ago to monitor progress.

I’m on the fence. Yes, parents should be responsible for their children’s physical health just as they are charged with that child’s overall well-being and security. When a child becomes morbidly obese, there is definitely an issue and the child’s life expectancy is significantly lowered. However, should a child be taken and placed in foster care?

Not sure.

I have not followed this story or read the myriad of articles and opinions- only a few. And I am not a psychologist or doctor, however I am a mom. I ensure that my children eat well which to me means healthy and sensible meals. I want them to grow up with good eating habits as well as being fit and living long. Will my efforts ensure this? Not necessarily, but I want to do my part. Research says that genetics determines obesity but I’m not sold. Environment such as eating habits and physical activity are said to play a role.

What I know is my mother cooked our meals, we ate out on ocassion. I had never even seen a frozen/microwave meal until I went to college and I promptly turned up my nose. Candy was for Halloween and we did not have snacks, sodas or sweets in the house, although my mom was a baker so I did not feel deprived. I manage my current household in the same manner. My children are good eaters and have expansive palettes. We order out sometimes and I even do McDonald’s runs, but this is not the norm. I can not deny that I shake my head and suck my teeth when I see obese children. I wonder why their parents are not putting their foot down and telling them “no.”

I think many parents don’t go the extra mile for their kids for a variety of reasons. Some are tired, overwhelmed, don’t care and some simply do not know what to do. Being a parent means putting your child first. It means giving better than you may have received. It’s a tough, tiring and sometimes thankless job and you will surely make mistakes. With that said, I think for the most part, parents do their best, even with the challenges and baggage that they may carry.

So back to the issue at hand. Is it best to remove the child and place them into foster care? Again, not sure. I think in extreme cases such as in Ohio, something must be done. I think initially there should be intermediate steps; interventions should happen along the way so that it does not reach that point. I think education/support for the parent should occur; there may be some additional contributing factors. Next, I think a family member should get the placement first, if possible, while the parent takes steps to change.

We all know that foster care can be horrible for children and change the trajectory of their lives when a placement goes badly. Additionally, it can become a custodial slippery slope for the biological parent. So what is the solution? I think the answer lies somewhere between loving your child and accountability. This is not a judgment but a line must be drawn. I am hopeful that a resolution is found that improves the life of an eight year-old boy.

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