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Are parents of extremely obese children abusive?

When a family court is determining child custody disputes it is important to look at what is best for the child. Is the child going to thrive with one parent over another? Or, in the cases where the state is stepping in for the protection of the child, is it better for the child to be with its parents or with a foster family?

A recent opinion article in the Journal of the American Medical Association argues that some extremely obese children should be removed from their parents 'custody and placed in temporary foster care. The example the article references is a 90-pound three-year-old who weighed 400 pounds by the age of 12. When she hit the 400-pound mark, she had already been diagnosed with Type II diabetes, sleep apnea, high blood pressure, and issues with her cholesterol.

The authors, an obesity expert at Children's Hospital Boston and a lawyer at the Harvard School of Public health, do not claim that all obese children should be taken from their parents. While there are approximately 2 million obese children, the authors argue that the state should step in only when a child has developed life-threatening conditions and only when the state will be able to benefit the child.

Although the authors have children's best interests at heart, some have questioned their proposed solution to life-threatening obesity. One of the founders of the Yale Prevention Center does not believe that the state's intervention will truly be better for an extremely obese child. He agrees that childhood obesity is a problem and that overfeeding a child could be abusive. He is not sure, however, that there is evidence that taking a child from its parents will be more effective than other ways of combating the problem.

Other reports have noted the difficulty in teaching families healthy behaviors, but many are also concerned that removing children from their parents' custody is too extreme.

Source: ABC News, "Should Parents Lose Custody of Extremely Obese Children?" Mikaela Conley, 13 July 2011

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