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Should Parents Lose Custody of Obese Children?

The debate is running rampant all over the internet since the opinion piece in the Journal of the American Medical Association by Dr. David Ludwig, an obesity specialist at Harvard-affiliated Children’s Hospital Boston, argued that putting children temporarily in foster care is in some cases more ethical than obesity surgery. Catch up on the story in the ABC article: Should Parents Lose Custody of Super Obese Kids?

There are very strong opinions on both sides of the debate and those that sit in the middle. Personally, I don’t think the foster care system is equipped to handle or even the right organization to deal with this issue but I do think Ludwig has done an interesting thing. He has activated people to take a serious and hard look at this epidemic. And I do believe that obesity especially in children is reaching epidemic status. The Center for Disease Control concurs as stated on their website:

The Obesity Epidemic

More than one-third of U.S. adults (over 72 million people) and 17% of U.S. children are obese. During 1980–2008, obesity rates doubled for adults and tripled for children. During the past several decades, obesity rates for all population groups—regardless of age, sex, race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, education level, or geographic region—have increased markedly.

What would I like to see happen?

  • I would like for nutrition and physical education to become a prominent (and well-funded) part of every school system.
  • I would like to see infant/early eaters nutrition to be included in baby birth classes.
  • I would like every pediatrician to discuss healthy life habits during well-baby visits and beyond.
  • I would like to see every American get behind Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move campaign.
  • I would like to see school lunch programs overhauled.
  • I would like for there to be stricter regulations about marketing junk food to children. And along with that I would like rules that prohibit sugary cereal makers from misleading consumers with their “Good Source of Whole Grain” labels ( Yes – I know they are made with whole grains but what about the other crap in there?).
  • I would like fresh foods to be priced so people from all economic situations have access.
  • I would like this debate to make a difference.

What do you think? Join the conversation on our Online Community: Should Parents Lose Custody of Obese Children?


  1. Green Mom July 18, 2011 at 10:16 am

    Totally agree Cooking Mom. In the school lunch reform, I think snacks should be included. Even with my preschooler (in public school program) I sent my own snacks and let the teachers know he was not to be offerred chocolate milk, just water or white milk. The affordability issue really bothers me too. Cost shouldn’t have to determine how/where you eat or shop for food.

  2. News Mom July 21, 2011 at 1:42 pm

    Oh I’m torn. First off, I will say that I can’t stand researchers on any topic offering up extreme solutions just to grab headlines. I think it’s irresponsible. There are lots of issues that children can have — from behavioral disorders to obesity — that may be signs of less than perfect parenting, but to suggest as part of this debate that obese children be taken from their parents is purely a headline grabber in this case, and I think it’s distasteful for academics to employ such tactics.
    Second, I truly appreciate the anti-obesity efforts, and I understand that for the vast majority of children, the suggestions being offered for universal change are wonderful. But we also need to remember that one size does not fit all. For my daughter, for instance, a milk allergy in her first two years left her unwilling to drink regular milk. On the rare occasion she will drink chocolate milk, I am thrilled for the calcium she’ll it provides her and which could help prevent osteoporosis in her later years. My son is significantly underweight and any calorie he can consume is a good calorie — the fattier the better. And I talk to parents all the time who have issues getting their children to eat enough and are willing, essentially, to “take a spoon full of sugar to help the medicine go down.”
    So some universal changes are wonderful (the broad expectation of drinking water instead of juice has been a major positive change since I was a child). But I think the most important universal change is not prescriptive practices but better education on the subject. And I don’t think you need to scare people to teach them.

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