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Child Obesity considered Abuse?

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Old 07-21-2009, 11:16 AM   #1
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Default Child Obesity considered Abuse?

Child Obesity

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!
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Old 07-21-2009, 11:47 AM   #2
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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.
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Old 07-21-2009, 12:10 PM   #3
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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.
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Old 07-21-2009, 12:55 PM   #4
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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.
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Old 07-21-2009, 01:04 PM   #5
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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.
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Old 07-21-2009, 01:08 PM   #6
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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.
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Old 07-21-2009, 01:11 PM   #7
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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!
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Old 07-21-2009, 01:11 PM   #8
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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.
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Old 07-21-2009, 01:23 PM   #9
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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.
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Old 07-21-2009, 02:02 PM   #10
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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!
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Old 07-21-2009, 06:14 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by murphmitch View Post
''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?
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Old 07-21-2009, 06:34 PM   #12
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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.
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Old 07-21-2009, 08:59 PM   #13
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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 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 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

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Old 07-21-2009, 09:08 PM   #14
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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).
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Old 07-21-2009, 09:41 PM   #15
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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
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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

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