Foster care for obese kids?

Lady Heather - posted on 07/12/2011 ( 2 moms have responded )

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"Should parents of extremely obese children lose custody for not controlling their kids' weight? A provocative commentary in a distinguished U.S. medical journals argues yes, and its authors are joining a quiet chorus of advocates who say the government should be allowed to intervene in extreme cases.

It has happened a few times in the U.S., and the opinion piece in Wednesday's Journal of the American Medical Association says putting children temporarily in foster care is in some cases more ethical than obesity surgery.

Dr. David Ludwig, an obesity specialist at Harvard-affiliated Children's Hospital Boston, 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.

State intervention "ideally will support not just the child but the whole family, with the goal of reuniting child and family as soon as possible. That may require instruction on parenting," said Ludwig, who wrote the article with Lindsey Murtagh, a lawyer and a researcher at Harvard's School of Public Health.

"Despite the discomfort posed by state intervention, it may sometimes be necessary to protect a child," Murtagh said.

But University of Pennsylvania bioethicist Art Caplan said he worries that the debate risks putting too much blame on parents.

Obese children are victims of advertising, marketing, peer pressure and bullying — things a parent can't control, he said.

"If you're going to change a child's weight, you're going to have to change all of them," Caplan said."

http://www.cbc.ca/news/health/story/2011...

Oh dear. Apparently it's come to this.

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Becky - posted on 07/12/2011

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Oooh, that's a dicey one. I can see it in the case of the particular child they mentioned, because it sounds like her parents had difficulty providing appropriately for her, and her health really was at very serious risk. I think it really has to be a case by case thing with some very strict parameters though. You would need to establish that there wasn't a medical reason for the child's obesity - or that if there was, the parents were not addressing that issue. Also, it would depend on the child's age. When a child is 3, the parents should have control of what they eat. A 3 year old should not be obese, period. When they're 14, well, it's a little harder for a parent to control at that age - the parent may be trying their best at home, but they can't control what the child eats when they're not at home. So, I guess I'm not totally opposed to this, because there are very real health risks and children should not just be left to suffer and die at a young age because their parents are too lazy or too ineffective to help them control their weight. But I can also see it being taken too far - where children who are not really at risk are taken for some trumped up reason, just because they can.

Lady Heather - posted on 07/12/2011

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It was long, so I cut it off, but now I see this case that I think is important to mention:

"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.

While some doctors promote weight-loss surgery for severely obese teens, Ludwig said it hasn't been used for very long in adolescents and can have serious, sometimes life-threatening complications.

"We don't know the long-term safety and effectiveness of these procedures done at an early age," he said.

Ludwig said he starting thinking about the issue after a 90-pound 3-year-old girl came to his obesity clinic several years ago. Her parents had physical disabilities, little money and difficulty controlling her weight. Last year, at age 12, she weighed 400 pounds and had developed diabetes, cholesterol problems, high blood pressure and sleep apnea.

"Out of medical concern, the state placed this girl in foster care, where she simply received three balanced meals a day and a snack or two and moderate physical activity," he said.

After a year, she lost 130 pounds. Though she is still obese, her diabetes and apnea disappeared; she remains in foster care, he said."

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