I have been following along with a story that came out of Cleveland, Ohio where an 8 year old boy was taken from his home because he was being protected by authorities for what they are calling abuse by his mother for overfeeding the boy and not controlling his weight. I had a long debate with my wife about this and we both took sides with the mother and also with the social workers on the case. It was a tough discussion. Is this a situation where social services needed to step in to help save the child? We again differed in our opinions and were not able to be more definitive in what was right or wrong here. I’m not sure there is an easy right or wrong answer.
For those that are not familiar with the story, you might want to look up the articles being written. For a quick sketch, the 8 year old Cleveland Heights boy is 8 years old and weighs more than 200 pounds. Let that sink in for a moment. We often hear of children being protected for physical abuse by a parent and they mention in the article linked above that this is the first time they can recall a child being taken from a home for protection against obesity.
It is stated that social services had been working with the mother for more than a year to help get the child’s weight problem under control to no avail. Of note to me is the fact that this mother is also a substitute elementary teacher. One would think she would be more cognizant of the issues of children and abuse. I have no doubt that the mother loves her child and might be seeing the feeding of the child as a way to prove or show love. I have none of the detailed facts as to the why and what. Does her lack of discipline make her a bad parent? Is this clearly a situation where authorities need to step in to protect the child?
The 8 year old in this case has trouble breathing, has sleep apnea, and may have other health related issues. A study that is reported by the Center For Disease Control and prevention shows that nearly 17% of kids are obese. These children are getting things like hypertension, diabetes and diseases related to their health. Are those kids also at risk of abuse? I am not sure we are seeing this as a problem like the case here with the 200+ pound 8 year old, but where is the line drawn? Is there a body mass index that is the threshold? Should we be trying to draw a line? Commons sense needs to be the authority in this situation but I am not sure where we start the line of good and bad.
In answering these questions, many more questions are raised as a result. Is obesity the issue here? What happens when children are in a home where both parents are heavy smokers? Do we remove them from all dangerous conditions? If Dad drives too fast and gets continued speeding tickets or accidents do we remove children from a situation where they are at an increased risk for car accidents? This raises many other analogous situations which my wife and I discussed. We asked about third parties that might have a hand in this “abuse”, i.e. kids’ meals or soda and candy makers. Are our schools also putting our kids at risk? How much do genetics play into this case? Like I said we had many more questions than answers.
I am not sure where everyone stands on this and I would love to have us Dads talk a little about what we as parents should be doing. Do we need to protect children from overeating? Have we become so lazy that we are on our way to becoming the fat and lazy slobs on the spaceship in Wall-E? I hope not.