Can having an obese child be termed child-abuse?

by Liz Lockhart

Can having an obese child be termed child-abuse?

I have just finished writing a report about a family which is having four children removed into care as a result of the parents failing to help them to lose weight.  The link to this report is here

I was outraged and felt somewhat constrained in my reporting of this story as a news item so I have turned to my blog page to vent my outrage.

I was contacted a few months ago by a reader who had been unnecessarily taken into care as a child and who has suffered from mental health problems throughout her life (she is now in her 60s).  She was asking if anyone else had suffered as she has and looking for some kind of reassurance that this does not happen anymore. 

When I looked into the subject I found an alarming increase in the number of children being taken into care.  Whilst I am strongly of the opinion that children must be protected I query the necessity to remove these four children under these circumstances.  There is no accusation of mistreatment or neglect... the parents' crime is perhaps over-feeding.

As a mother I always measured my childrens overall health by their appetite.  I was fortunate enough to have two children who were not prone to weight gain but I certainly fed them up.  It felt like my role as a mother to feed and nurture. 

The family in question is unknown to me so I cannot speculate as to the circumstances surrounding the childrens weight issues but there could be many reasons for it.  Taking them away from their parents surely cannot be the answer to this situation.  I want to scream to get this stopped.  I want the family to get the help they need and not the useless treatment they have had so far.

I have personally known a social worker who could have had their own child taken into care for the very same reasons that exist in this family.

The damage which will be done to these four young children in removing them from their parents, other siblings and home must, surely, outweigh any benefit of weight loss.  What do you think?

Comments

I am split on this one. I may sound really harsh but I think feeding children rubbish and putting their health in danger is a form of abuse. I know that it is hard (as a working mum) to find time for nutritious meals every day but that is something we have to do in order to keep our children fit and healthy. This IS a parental responsibility and whilst there may be reasons for weight gain other than eating rubbish, I believe it is a parents job to put the welfare of their children as a top priority and we do know that obesity is a leading cause of many health problems. Besides these parents were warned years in advance, therefore we must not speculate that this is simply a 'weight' issue the parents did fail to act in what was deemed the 'children's best interest' for two years!?

OK now onto my softer side which says we cannot simply take away children who present weight problems and indeed where will it end if we do? Also I think it is very important to point out social services (who have been known to be less than perfect) still have a very hard and important job to do and individual cases must be looked at individually we should not jump on this as merely a 'weight' issue. Taking children into care can have massive psychological implications later in life and I hope that the powers that be take great care in ALL cases of child abuse, neglect, maltreatment individually.

Part of me agrees with you but part does not.

In an ideal world all children would have the best of everything.

Having had to contact social services to register my concerns over children who were being subjected to neglect and social services doing little more than nothing I question their efficiency and 'due care'.  I can't help but wonder if this family is an easy target.

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This is a story that is absolutely flawed in its reported details. The only detail we are hearing is about a poor diet. And the only reason we are hearing this is because the parents have released these details. The biggest reported flaw is that the Social Work Department are going to remove the children. As the family live in Scotland the Social Workers don't, and indeed can't make these decisions. That responsibility falls to the Childrens Panel. The Childrens Panel is made up of laypersons. People from any and all walks of life volunteer to sit on the panel. All that is required is a good deal of common sense, analytical thinking and an ability put the childs needs above anything else. The Social workers can make recommendations to the panel, but these recommendations will be listened to along with other people present at the Childrens hearing. The parents, social work department, School, Family centre, and any other relevant party could all be present. The most important person with the right to attend is the child. They have an absolute right to be there and they will have the most valued input in to any decisions that are made(they will be offered the chance to speak alone to the panel members). So bearing this in mind, I don't for a minute think that a better diet is scratching the surface of the needs of these children if removal from parents is seen as an option.

Good Morning,
Thank you very much for your highly knowledgable comments. They certainly have given me food for thought and I find that what you say is very reassuring and comforting. I was unaware of how the system works in Scotland and your comment shows that your knowledge is far greater than mine.
I have discussed what you say with my editor and we have decided that I will research this further so that we can give the same reassurance to our readers.
This shows the value of the opportunity to add comment and I for one feel richer for the knowledge that you have given me.
Liz Lockhart

Removing a child from his family is an absolute abuse with more impact on his well being than obesity. The family should be better educated on healthy diets. The social services agents should come check if the family is respecting the diet. They should keep in mind that people lose weight at a different pace each, and try to help them with different alternatives. I think this an absolute abuse of power on behalf of the government, and taxpayers money can be better used than that. I hope everyone there will act and do something about this. IT'S UNACCEPTABLE!
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