An article from the Journal of the American Medical Association is making the rounds today. It’s written by a lawyer and a doctor. The authors argue that obese children should be taken away from their parents and placed in foster care.
Yes, it’s entirely possible that this country has become so vain that people want to make letting your kids get fat an offense tantamount to child abuse. But that’s not what’s going on here. The authors aren’t suggesting that parents should lose custody rights if little Johnny has a tubby tummy. Instead, the authors are concerned when little Johnny has diabetes and a measurable gravitational pull by the time he’s 11.
If it weren’t for the fact that foster care in this country is just a little bit better than sending kids to concentration camps, I think I would support this idea. Parents should be on a shorter leash in general….
The practicality of this idea is destroyed by the Hobbesian state of childhood foster care. But at the very least, it’s an interesting thought experiment. From the WSJ Law Blog:
Lindsey Murtagh, a lawyer and researcher at Harvard’s School of Public Health, and David Ludwig, an obesity doctor at Children’s Hospital Boston, argue that state intervention is needed on behalf of severely obese children, such as those who suffer from Type 2 diabetes, liver problems and breathing issues.
Although obesity surgery is an option, its long-term effects on children are not yet known, Ludwig told the AP.
Murtagh and Ludwig point out that states have long addressed parental neglect that results in children’s undernourishment through already existing legal frameworks governing child abuse.
Great point. The state will step in and stop parents who won’t feed their kids. Why shouldn’t the state step in and stop parents who keep shoveling food down their kids’ throats?
Remember, we’re not talking about run-of-the-mill “husky” children. (Full disclosure: I was a thin kid. My svelte figure didn’t blossom until I discovered beer and marriage.) We’re talking about truly obese children who have significant health risks.
More importantly, we’re talking about parents who at best can’t get their children the medical help they need, or at worst can’t or won’t put any reasonable boundaries on what their kids can or cannot do. When parents are unable or unwilling to take care of their children, isn’t that when the state is supposed to step in?
But like I said, this is all theoretical. For the vast majority of children, they’re better off eating McDonald’s every day than living in American foster care. And most people don’t really want the state to have too much power over parenting decisions. One day, you can’t have a “morbidly obese” child, the next day, child protective services is at your door because your kid couldn’t do a pull-up in gym class.
You know how it goes; parents are the worst people to raise children except for all the other caregivers that have been tried.