Sunday, September 4, 2011

When it's the system abusing the children

We all remember the recent hubub when Dr. Lindsey Murtagh and Dr. David S. Ludwig made a suggestion in a Journal of American Medicical Association issue that perhaps "obese" children should be taken away from their parents for child neglect/abuse. The obvious idea being that these parents must be shoveling food in their kids' mouths and letting them watch TV and play video games all day. This particularly hits home for me because I would have been one of those kids, weighing in at over 150lbs by age 10 which made me clinically "obese". I can't remember my exact weight, I only remember being in grade school and looking at a scale thinking "if I can just stay this weight and not gain anymore as I grow then when I get to be a grown up I won't be fat". My diet consisted of the exact same meals, snack, and exercise as my brother and my sister who were both slim. But my mom was obviously abusing me into fatness, right? I just wonder what would have happened if I had been placed in foster care and they had failed to make me thin too? 

the three youngest children seen on the right holding an adult's hands are
at risk for being taken away for being too fat
In the UK we're seeing this suggestion put into practice. According to the Daily Mail three children have already been taken away and placed in foster care for being too fat. They were later reunited with their parents but had every single thing they ate monitored and even had a check in sheet for bed time. The parents were forced to move into an apartment run by a state program and were only allowed to live with 3 of their 6 children at a time. They were told to enroll their kids in dance and football and now that their kids have failed to slim down they're at risk for being taken away again, permanently, and without visitation. The oldest boy, who's 12, weighs about 224lbs, the 11 year old girl about 150 lbs, and the three year old weight around 55lbs (it doesn't mention heights, but the youngest looks fairly tall for a 3 year old).

Yes, all of these kids are on the larger side, like their parents. That would make sense considering obesity is primarily genetic, but they're also all within the range of normal and they're not done growing. Can you imagine the strain of having a social worker watch your every move? The mother even came under fire for letting her 7 year old fall asleep and stay at her father's because she didn't want to disturb her. What the system is doing to this family is far more abusive than any "over nourishment" that may be happening.

The mother said "The pressure of living in the family unit would have broken anyone. We were being treated like children and cut off from the outside world. To have a social worker stand and watch you eat is intolerable"

These children have been emotionally and psychologically tortured by a system that is supposed to be acting in their best interest but, instead, act with feat, judgement, and bigotry. Any chance they may have had at health or happiness may very well have just gone out the window. What this family has been put through is inexcusable and they're not the only ones. The UK social services department will be looking at more cases of failure to produce thin children and what has happened to these poor parents and children may very well happen to many more UK citizens. 

And there is, as always, the issue that no one is looking at what is being fed to thin kids, regardless of whether it is damaging their health. I can't even express the sadness and anger and frustration that this story has brought me. I have a feeling that the worst fat hate and bigotry and discrimination is still ahead of us. I hope that feeling is wrong. No one, no one, here cares about our health or well being and they sure as hell don't care about the facts or the science. Anti fat policies like this are based solely in fat hatred and ignorance. We need to figure out a way to fight this. 

*thanks to Neil for sending me this story


  1. Just found an article in the LA Times discussing this action in the US, this is crazy.,0,3696579.story

  2. This is so terrifying, for all the reasons you described. I am so frightened for what might happen in the future.
    Those children are me, my sisters and my own children. There is no way this is based on health or everyone would be targeted.