Weight Loss News and Current Events - Child Obesity considered Abuse?




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beerab
07-21-2009, 11:16 AM
Child Obesity (http://www.usatoday.com/news/health/weightloss/2009-07-20-obesityboy_N.htm)

This article is unbelievable. A mother has a 14 year old son who weighs 550 lbs! He has been taken away from her and placed into foster care.

What do you think should the "punishment" be for the parent? If any?

IMO there shouldn't be a punishment for the parent, but instead they should teach the parents how to eat right and change their cooking habits and so on, then bring the son back when they feel the parents can help their child out. 14 is TOO YOUNG to deal with being 1/4 of a ton!


Beck
07-21-2009, 11:47 AM
I have mixed feelings about this. On one hand the child is being put in danger due to his extreme obesity. There is no way in this day and age that people don't know what healthy living constitutes. Everyone knows that fast food, junk food, soda, and no exercise is going to make you fat. Everyone knows that whole foods and exercise will keep you healthier. This child must have been having yearly physicals, either with the family doctor or through a school nurse, and I'm sure the mother has received plenty of information on how to help her son lose the weight.

On the other hand I think it's horrible for children to be separated from the parents, and the cause for doing so need to be grievous. Is being overweight a grievous reason for taking a parent's rights away? Who decides what is the weight guidelines will be to determine which child can stay and which will be placed in foster care? What if being in foster care doesn't make any difference in the child's weight (or it gets worse due to emotional eating)?

It's a very touchy subject. Is this physical abuse? Is it emotional abuse? Is this a new class of abuse that the powers that be has conjured up? Is it going to set a precedent?

I feel sorry for both the mother and child. I couldn't imagine having to lose my child for any reason, and I hope things will work out in a way that will allow them to be reunited, and that he'll find help to lose the weight.

MindiV
07-21-2009, 12:10 PM
I'm like Beck...it's a back and forth thing. My brother and his wife lost custody of their three kids for a year or so when I was in junior high...and it's affecting them to this day, even though they've been back with them since then.

But at the same time...imagine if the parent was starving the child. It would be abuse, and the child would be taken away and put into foster care without a second thought. I know the health risks of starving someone are much more serious and immediate than OVER feeding...but the risks associated with obesity are still there.

If a child is that large at 14, he or she has been gaining weight at an alarming rate for a long time. Barring any medical complication, in my eyes it's the fault of the parent at that age. A child cannot work and make his or her own money to buy food, so you can't blame the child for eating on his or her own and gaining the weight. The parent is the one buying the food, cooking the food and making the choices. The kid can say "I don't want to eat broccoli" but only the parent, when the child is younger, can decide to buy McDonald's instead.

Maybe instead of immediately taking the child away, the entire family could be required to take parenting and nutrition classes, and the case could be monitored by a case worker or judge. If after a certain amount of time nothing is improving, THEN take the child away.


LisaJean
07-21-2009, 12:55 PM
I think a big question is what the parents were doing to contribute to or battle the weight gain. When a kid weighs 500 pounds at age 14, it's not just because the parents made a few bad decisions. There is also some medical or psychological issue of a very slow metabolism or an inability to stop eating. Most parents would not know how to deal with such a severe weight problem.

If this were my child, I would treat it like any other chronic condition--ask for a doctor's advice, and then take it. Ignoring a doctor's advice about a serious problem *is* neglect in some cases.

My heart goes out to this family. I hope they are able to grow stronger by overcoming this challenge.

harrismm
07-21-2009, 01:04 PM
Education for the family.It is amazing what people do not know.We can assume that this family should have recognized the danger of this situation."When we know better, we do better".I think this child belongs with his family.

Beck
07-21-2009, 01:08 PM
There definitely is a double standard when you look at how parents of children with eating disorders are treated compared to parents of obese children.

murphmitch
07-21-2009, 01:11 PM
The mom in this case was arrested and charged with criminal neglect. There had already been intervention up to this point with no improvement:

''In the South Carolina case, Gray followed nutritional guidelines set for her son by the state Department of Social Services, Varner says, but Alexander apparently got other food on his own while not under his mother's supervision."

This was a teenager who was able to find food from other sources than the home. Obviously this child's problems are deeply rooted and he needs more than his mom following nutritional guidelines to help him. Taking him out of the home does little to solve the problem though. On a side note the mom has signed an agreement with a film documentary company for exclusive rights to her story. Interesting!

sweetandspicy
07-21-2009, 01:11 PM
A child has to fall within the category of dependency and/or neglect before they can be removed. Before the removal the judicial system must comply and offer services and intervening assistance before the child can be placed in states custody. The article of course is ommiting information as they see it not necessary to the story. But as you all mentioned it was an on going situation and medical and school officals should have intervened well before 550 pounds.

TamiL
07-21-2009, 01:23 PM
The child did not do this to himself. He had help over the years. Somewhere along the way someone should of intervened in this situation. I think mom belongs in jail for neglect of a dependent.

Aclai4067
07-21-2009, 02:02 PM
I understand that a child can become obese despite their parents' best efforts. I was one of them. I would trade my lunch with other kids at school, eat snacks at my friends houses that my parents didn't keep around, spend my allowance at school vending machines. But 550 lbs is a whole different story. I can't imagine a child getting to that weight without the parents having a hand in it. I do hope the state does what it can to educate the parents and possibly get that child back in his original home. I hope the parents are willing to do the work!

beerab
07-21-2009, 06:14 PM
''In the South Carolina case, Gray followed nutritional guidelines set for her son by the state Department of Social Services, Varner says, but Alexander apparently got other food on his own while not under his mother's supervision."

Sure kids can get food outside the home- but this isn't like a trip to McDonald's here and there without mom. MOST teen's don't have a ton of money to eat themselves to the point of 550- I don't buy the mom's story of him getting the food on his own.

Even if it were in her own home- wouldn't she notice that groceries were dissapearing at an alarming rate? And that her son was morbidly obese? When my brother was living with my husband and I his diet was carefully monitored and he actually lost some weight living with me! This kid has/had to be eating an average of over 5,000 calories a day! How could his mom not realize it?

Stella
07-21-2009, 06:34 PM
It`s unfair to categorically say that it`s the parents fault. The child won`t have gained those excess 400lb (!!!) overnight, and anybody in his environment could have stepped in much sooner: Teachers, doctors...

Although 550lb is extreme, it is easy not to see the problem if you live with the person. Last year we got stick from our vet who classed our cat as morbidly obese. Yes, she was cuddly, yes I enjoyed my second cushion at night, and yes we did make fun of her huge, insatiable appetite. Yet, it never really sank in that we were putting her at significant danger by giving her all she wanted. To us, she was just a cuddly cat, and our excuse was that, beside our Siamese cat, she would always look big. I felt very guilty when the vet mentioned diabetes, joint problems and an early grave.

We have put loads of effort into her diet regime and she lost almost 1/3 of her whole weight in exactly 6 months. The vet calls her his "biggest loser", and looking back at the old pics we now, too, see that she was no longer healthy. All this time, we honestly did not see it.

kiramira
07-21-2009, 08:59 PM
I'm sorry, but if you have a 550 lb teen, you HAVE to see that there is something WRONG here. This isn't a case of an overweight child. This is a medical emergency.

Like it or not, this weight didn't come on overnight. It took years of over-feeding to get there. And there WAS intervention by the State to no effect. So the bottom line is, IMHO, this child needs medical assistance RIGHT NOW to save his life. And if this means removing the child from his clearly toxic enviornment (home, school, interactions with friends, and so on) to save his life, so be it. This kid doesn't have the time to wait for his family to get educated any more, and he doesn't need to be in the same living situation for the time being.

IMHO, it is no different that if the child is a drug addict and close to death -- would the State allow a drug-addicted child to stay in the home and partake of drugs while allowing the parents to receive education about the issue? Especially if the parents were addicts themselves (because I'll bet you dollars to donuts :D that the parents aren't at a normal weight, either)? Probably not. The State would remove the child from a harmful situation to save a life.

Make no mistake about it, people. This is a MEDICAL EMERGENCY IMHO. This child's days are numbered without serious, severe intervention. He needs to be out of this toxic environment, in a closed clinic, and monitored and treated medically for his condition. This won't happen at home. And he doesn't have the luxury of time.

As to the mother being charged, well, the media tells us limited information. I'm fairly confident that there is far more to this situation than we know. And charges are generally not laid unless there is particularly egregious behaviour because of the optics. So I'll bet dollars to donuts :D that there is alot more going on.

I'm glad the State intervened, as this kid doesn't stand a chance without some serious assistance. And if this was a 5 year old who was 300 lbs, would you feel any differently?

Kira

kaplods
07-21-2009, 09:08 PM
I was a morbidly obese child. My mother and grandmother were obese, and some people would (and did) blame my parents for my weight. Looking back I was more traumatized by their attempts to make me lose weight, than by their inability to succeed.

Part of the problem was their attempts were largely misguided. You can't give a 5'7" 10 year old a 200 calorie salad as dinner and expect them not to become food obsessed (I reached my full height in 4th grade when I hit puberty). When I was 12 or 13, they allowed me to be put on amphetemine diet pills (I had already been on countless diets since age 5, and was a WW member at age 8).

By looking at my mother, I suppose you would think that her obesity influenced or even caused my obesity, but I think you'd be wrong. My parents raised three other children, and I was the only person in the family to have ever had a childhood weight issue. My brother and I were adopted (not bio-related) and my our youngest sisters were my parents biological children. It's interesting that my brother and I do not follow either weight pattern of our parents, and my two younger sisters (the biokids) take after our parents. One never having a weight problem just like our dad, and one taking after our mom - no weight problem until her late 20's. The weight even went on in the same place, her hips and butt. She's managing to stay much smaller than mom did, but she struggles to stay under a size 10.

My question would be, if this kid is taken away from his parents, and the foster parents can't get the child to lose weight, will he be returned to the parents, or will he be sent to an inpatient treatment program?

The one thing my parents didn't resort to, that I wish they maybe had is a "fat camp," because when I was a kid overweight children were fairly rare. I felt like a complete freak growing up, maybe meeting other kids with the same problems would have helped me, and maybe not.

I was put on my first diet in kindergarten, and that's when I learned to sneak food. I remember being unbearably hungry all of the time (at least until night time and I could sneak food. I even learned how to take food that wouldn't be missed (mixing butter, flour and sugar to make cookie dough in the middle of the night). By todays standards it would have been considered too strict a diet to put a small child on, but it was the diet my pediatritians had given my parents to make me follow.

In many ways, it's a no-win situation. It's likely that a 550 lb teen is going to be tortured in foster care. Having worked with kids in juvenile detention, and having to work with DCFS in Illinois, I don't have a lot of confidence in the foster care system. There are people trying to make money by having foster kids (which you can only "make money" by neglecting the kids), and there are people who genuinely want to help kids, but don't have great parenting skills themselves. The qualifications for fostering in most states, is surprisingly inadequate. The average foster parents are not going to be prepared to deal with the problems of a 550 lb adolescent. If they have other kids in the home, he'll be tormented and tortured by the other kids.

Sending him to inpatient treatment would probably be more humane (but unless it's covered by his parents' health insurance, that's not going to happen). If the foster parents can't help him lose weight, he could be sent to a group home (I've worked in three of those, and I wouldn't let a dog of mine live in any of them, much less a child).

kiramira
07-21-2009, 09:41 PM
From the article:

The arrest warrant in the Gray case alleges that her son's weight was "serious and threatening to his health" and that she had placed him "at an unreasonable risk of harm."

Virginia Williamson, counsel for the South Carolina Department of Social Services, says her agency sought custody of Alexander "because of information from health care providers that he was at risk of serious harm because his mother was not meeting his medical needs."

The department "would not take action based on a child's weight alone," she says.

The department would not take action based on a child's weight alone. There is NO SHORTAGE of obese children in obese households. Not all of them are moved into State care. This is clearly an exceptional case.

And clearly, if the medical needs are not being met, he is placed in a home where he WILL have those needs met. Especially since this is now a high profile case. You can't assume that this child will be "thrown away" in the system, because lets face it, all eyes are on the State because of the charges. You can't assume that his foster care will be poor by virtue of the fact that it IS foster care. This is clearly an extraordinary case and there is NO DOUBT that special care is being taken by the medical and social state representatives to ensure the social, psychological, physical, and medical care of this child is being properly provided.

Look, there is a difference between being obese at 250lbs and obese at 550lbs if you are 14 years old. This case is clearly exceptional and is being treated as such.

Furthermore, personal experiences of childhood obesity will vary, and what applied to one as a child should not be translated to a "treatment plan" or guideline for all others. In THIS case, the child's medical needs were not attended to. In other cases, the assessment has been different.

This child is in dire need and must be removed from the toxic environment if he's going to LIVE. It isn't ideal, but it apparently is necessary given the history of THIS particular family.

Kira

kaplods
07-22-2009, 12:15 AM
You're right that I cannot assume that the child will get poor care in foster care, but I don't think that we can assume he will get good care either.

If he only get's good care because it's a high profile case, that to me is an even bigger indictment of the foster care system. You can only assure care if you get cameras or reporters involved?

I saw kids in foster care, taken because of medical neglect receive inadequate medical care in foster homes and in group homes. I've seen DCFS place kids in homes they knew were inadequate, but because there were no other openings, put the kid there anyway.

There are no guarantees of this child getting poor care, there's just no guarantee of him having good care, either.

I hope he is placed in a home that is medically and emotionally nurturing. I'm just very jaded, having worked within the system for so long. I know that the kind of foster care he would need, is extremely rare, difficult to find, and the ones that exist rarely have openings. If his foster care social worker can't find such a home, he or she will place the child where they can.

murphmitch
07-22-2009, 12:35 PM
And clearly, if the medical needs are not being met, he is placed in a home where he WILL have those needs met. Especially since this is now a high profile case. You can't assume that this child will be "thrown away" in the system, because lets face it, all eyes are on the State because of the charges. You can't assume that his foster care will be poor by virtue of the fact that it IS foster care. This is clearly an extraordinary case and there is NO DOUBT that special care is being taken by the medical and social state representatives to ensure the social, psychological, physical, and medical care of this child is being properly provided.




Sorry, I agree with Kaplods. The older I get the more cynical I get about the "state" doing the right thing by people. I've seen plenty of cases where foster care and oversight of these kids was pretty bad. Also the kind of intensive treatment this child needs is pretty expensive. I can't see them paying for that, at least not in my state. :(

beerab
07-22-2009, 01:23 PM
Teachers can only do so much and if the mother doesn't take her son to the doctor they can't do much for him can they? It's a ultimately parent's responsibility to take care of their child.

I was overweight growing up also, but never that overweight- all through high school I was like 165 lbs, overweight but not morbidly obese. I'm sure most of us while we were overweight children were not morbidly obese while we were living at home. My weight scaled out of control when I went away to college, sure I have PCOS and that played a big role in my weight, but I still think this isn't just a case of a few pounds, this kid is at least 250 lbs overweight... super morbidly obese IMO!

I do hope that the parents are given some nutritional education so that they can have their son returned to them. I think if the family is monitored and the boy is losing weight then the boy should stay with his parents- I am sure there is no question that his parents love him.

MoragMunch
08-10-2009, 03:32 PM
Absolutely this is a form of abuse - it may not be intentional, but it is endangering the child's physical life and quality of life.

The problem would be, though, where to determine the line between abuse/neglect and simply the way a child is built? When he or she is twenty pounds over, fifty, a hundred?

kiramira
08-10-2009, 03:34 PM
Sorry, but NO child is "built" to be 550 lbs at the age of 14. As the Dept said, they don't remove children simply because of their weight. It is because the health needs of this child were being neglected.

Kira

Babette
09-13-2009, 12:49 AM
While this story is horrendous - I'm really not sure that having the mother sent to jail is a good idea. If this judgment sets a precedence (although I realize with a 550 lbs 14 year old this is not typical) - that a parent can be arrested because their child is overweight, obese ... where's the line? Is it 20 pounds, 50, 100?

Seems to me that this could also be a case of Munchausen Syndrome - in which case the mother needs psychological attention. And I do agree that the boy should be taken out of the house, at least until counseling be given to the mother and a psych evaluation.

Thighs Be Gone
09-13-2009, 12:56 AM
Mixed feelings here. I cannot imagine that removing this boy from his home is going to his obesity condition at this point. If anything, it could make it worse.

I would like to think some sort of intervention and educational program would be a step in the right direction. The boy needs his family though.

LuvMyMr
10-06-2009, 03:38 PM
Is it abuse? Absolutely! 550 is incredible. He didn't put that food in the house. He didn't sneak food. He should not be with his family until they all get therapy.

Amba Dawn
10-16-2009, 03:11 PM
Do you think that maybe the mother felt about her son the way a lot of us have probably felt ourselves about our weight issues--confused, hopeless, depressed, etc.? Being a mother, i can't imagine letting my kids' weight spiral out of control like that, but if it were to happen, seeing my kid at 500+ pounds would all but kill me. Imagine the feelings of guilt you would have knowing how badly you screwed up SO BADLY at raising a healthy child. And if the mother is dealing with weight issues herself, could you imagine how much stress that would put on someone worrying about her own weight problems, let alone her son's? I know how stressful it is dealing with just my own. I know its not an excuse her her, but then again, none of us have justifiable excuses for our weight problems. It is what is it is now, and we have all finally come to terms on how to deal with it.

I don't know all of the details about this case, but those were my first thoughts when reading this post. In my opinion, this family would probably be better benefited with A LOT of psychological and medical help...along with A LOT of SUPPORT...rather than ripping a child away from his mother.

bethanygm
10-29-2009, 09:57 PM
The child just needs to be put in inpatient care for an eating disorder... unless.. it can be medically explained. And maybe it can. Maybe there is something going haywire with his hormones or other neurochemicals and it causes the kid to just eat and eat.
If it can't be medically explained, than he or she needs help for an eating disorder, because that is what this is. At that age, you can get food somewhere besides your home. You can also get food when you are even younger than that if you want to. Taking the kid out of the home would be necessary, at least for some time, because this isn't a minor case of it at all.

giselley
11-01-2009, 09:33 AM
I had a very overweight brother and sister. (much more overweight than I am now) They were getting their food from the neighbors. My brother was also dumpster diving behind a vending macine company that threw out its snacks behind the business. He would stash industrial packages of little donuts under his bed. 14 is not too young to do things like this. My parents kept putting my brother on a diet, but he kept begging for food from neighbors. Both of them shop-lifted candy nearly every day. They brought him to psychologists. He would whine about how unfair life was. He'd lie about the food of course, and make it seem like "dad's fault." He could play the system, and wasn't afraid of lying or manipulating anyone. The only way to stop this cycle would have been to chain him up in a closet-- but that is illegal.

helwa588
11-02-2009, 09:40 PM
I think this is a form of neglect. it's one thing to have a chubby kid its another thing to have a 500lbs 14 year old. the mother should have done something about her kids weight. she should have been taking her kid to a doctor to see why he was so big to to treat it so he could lose weight. 500lbs on an adult is dangerous imagine what it does to a child's body

misskimothy
11-02-2009, 09:59 PM
Article on the status of this case as of 1 June 2009

http://daisysdeadair.blogspot.com/2009/06/case-of-alexander-draper.html

MindiV
11-03-2009, 09:05 AM
I just think there's sort of a double standard when it comes to this. I mean...a majority of people (myself included now to an extent) think the child and parent should get counseling...that it's not neglect, just lack of education.

Think of the opposite, though. What if the child was 15, tall and only 90 pounds? What if the parent gave the child only crackers and a few cups of broccoli a day to eat? They'd be jailed for abuse - starving the child.

Why is it ok to severely overfeed a child or allow that child to overfeed himself enough to become dangerously, morbidly obese at such a young age?

Amba Dawn
11-03-2009, 11:24 AM
I just think there's sort of a double standard when it comes to this. I mean...a majority of people (myself included now to an extent) think the child and parent should get counseling...that it's not neglect, just lack of education.

Think of the opposite, though. What if the child was 15, tall and only 90 pounds? What if the parent gave the child only crackers and a few cups of broccoli a day to eat? They'd be jailed for abuse - starving the child.

Why is it ok to severely overfeed a child or allow that child to overfeed himself enough to become dangerously, morbidly obese at such a young age?

I agree with you to a CERTAIN extent. But I think it all comes down to intent. I think it is a lot easier to overfeed you child without bad intention than it is to starve your child without bad intention. I've seen the Maury shows where parents intentionally overfeed their kids to make them fat...and there are 150lb 2-year-olds wobbling around the stage in ginormous diapers. That to me is abuse...they TRY to make their kids fat because they think its cute or whatever. And if that's the story in this case, then of course it is abuse.

I still have to use our own circumstances as an example here. When we all became overweight, most of us probably didn't consider (at the time) that each potato chip or twinkie we put in our mouths was destroying our bodies and our health. We realize it now...but the damage has already been done. Even though my kids aren't overweight, I'm not abusing my kids when I give them a cookie or get them a happy meal on occasion...even though I know its not GOOD for them.

At some point, this kids weight spiraled out of control. Not saying that the mother has no blame in it--she does. But unless she was intending to hurt her child, I don't consider it abuse. Obviously the child has an eating problem, which is a disorder just like anorexia. And at his age...and even younger...that can be hard for a parent to control. If the child were anorexic, would we expect his mother to hold him down and shove food down his throat? No. I think the child and mother need help...education, medical treatment, psychological counseling...taking the kid from his mother isn't going to cure his problem.

MindiV
11-03-2009, 11:27 AM
You're right on the intent, Amba Dawn...each case is different and should be handled differently based on circumstances.

In this case, according to the blog update, the mother was offered help and assistance and refused it multiple times. She was told his life was at risk had chance after chance for help, and she ran.

To me, THAT makes it abuse...when she's been approached and told his life is at risk and failed to care.

misskimothy
11-03-2009, 12:12 PM
I think an earilier poster mentioned that this wasn't about the weight per se, but about the refusal of the mother to deal appropriately with it. I think we should all keep this in mind. There are lots of over and underweight kids in America who are in the home. There are very, very few that are removed as a direct result of their weight.
It seems to me that alot of posters on this thread have this kind of thought process: "This child is obese and was removed from the home. I was obese and wouldn't have wanted to be removed. I have children with weight issues and it doesn't make me a bad parent. I don't believe in foster care. I don't like the government involved in this issue because of what I experience/d."
If we all keep in mind that this child is 550 pounds with a parent unwilling to get help for this child, the State has taken this responsibility for the good of the child. There is more to this case than "this child is fat. The government is evil for stepping in." We need to all keep this in mind before passing judgement. The life of this 550lb 15 year old is at stake.

Amba Dawn
11-03-2009, 03:20 PM
You're right on the intent, Amba Dawn...each case is different and should be handled differently based on circumstances.

In this case, according to the blog update, the mother was offered help and assistance and refused it multiple times. She was told his life was at risk had chance after chance for help, and she ran.

To me, THAT makes it abuse...when she's been approached and told his life is at risk and failed to care.

I wish we had more details about it. I read the blog misskimothy posted, and people who commented on that brought up good points. We don't know what the "treatment" offered was...it could have involved surgery that she felt was dangerous...or involved something that went against their religious beliefs. There's just too much we don't know. I don't really blame her for running...I would run too if the government tried to take my children away. I think in a weird way that it actually shows that she DOES love her child...if she didn't love him or care that he was being taken away, she wouldn't have ran.

I dunno. Its hard to take a solid position one way or the other without more information.

misskimothy
11-03-2009, 05:08 PM
I don't think surgery was an option because before any type of surgery they need to assess the compliance of the patient, and in this case there is no compliance whatsoever. And if it is a religious thing, the state often makes the health of the child take precedence over the beliefs of the parent. Blood transfusions are a hot button topic, as is chemo for leukemia patients. In the case of Jehovah's Witness believers, if the minor child is denied life-saving treatment because of the beliefs of the parent, the State intervenes to assume control over the health of this minor child and acts accordingly. According to this report:
http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/2009/05/22/2009-05-22_mother_charged_with_neglected_14yearold_son_who _weighs_555_pounds.html
the mother was arrested on the scene because she showed signs of wanting to hurt herself after being found by authorities. Sounds like she's not wrapped too tight.