Another fat child taken from her parents

The British Medical Association recently rejected a motion to label “childhood obesity” as “parental neglect”, but that’s apparently doing nothing to protect fat children. Yesterday an eight-year-old girl in the UK was reported to be removed from her home for being fat.

This is shocking and infuriating on so many levels, it’s hard to know where to begin.

I guess I’ll start with their underlying assumption that it is “parental behaviour that leads to childhood obesity.” It’s not. Which they would know if any of them bothered to read the literature. From a recent review in the Proceedings of the Nutrition Society  Understanding the Aetiology of Childhood Obesity:

The results of twin studies indicate that the heritability for BMI is approximately 0.70, approaching that for height…Surprisingly, studies of adult twin pairs tend to find shared environmental effects [e.g. home environment] to be extremely small,  indicating that most of the environmental influences on weight are unique to the individual. Adoption studies provide the strongest evidence, because children grow up sharing a home environment with family members to whom they are genetically unrelated. They find similar results: adults who were adopted at birth do not resemble either their adoptive siblings or their adoptive parents in adiposity.

So, yes, what the mother’s pleading for us to understand is absolutely right, weight is mainly genetic.  When people see fat parents with fat kids, the conclusion they jump to – that the fat parents “teach” their children to be fat – is wrong. 

It’s true genetics is not the only determinant of weight – it’s just the overwhelming determinant. But the remainder, “the environment,” – which we’re led to believe is code for “a bad lifestyle” or “parents neglecting their children” – is NOT code for these things. “Environment” means everything that is not purely genetic. All the infinite variables which affect each of us differently. And it includes variables like prenatal environment – which has an important impact on future weight and growth – but which aren’t exactly things even the most diligent parent can go back and change.

So, no, you can no more look at a child and know what the parents are doing than you can look at a fat adult and know what their lifestyle is like.

But these people think they can, because they’re ignorant. And the justification given for ripping this child from her family is positively psychotic:

[a child’s weight] may not be an immediately life-threatening issue, but it can affect a child’s life chances, their potential and long-term health. If we can do something about that we should.

Even if you believed the fantasy that a foster home can take a fat child and magically make her permanently thin, I can’t imagine how spectacularly stupid or delusional you have to be to think that forcibly taking a eight-year-old from her parents can improve her “life chances” or “potential.”  On the other hand, if their goal is to “traumatize her for life,” then they’re maybe on to something.

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10 Responses to “Another fat child taken from her parents”

  1. Sarah Perry Says:

    My GOD. This is absolutely heartbreaking.

  2. Rachel Says:

    Even with the cases where fat is caused by environmental reasons – i.e. a poor diet – the intent to harm the child isn’t there. It’s most likely a case of ignorance, not neglect. My parents were fat, as were their parents, and my siblings and I all were fat growing up. We weren’t neglected or abused – it was just that my parents didn’t know what proper nutrition was. In fact, I didn’t know what a calorie was until my early 20s.

    For these parents and their children, education about nutrition would be so much more beneficial than ripping a child away from its support system.

    Are we going to start yanking all the bratty children from their parents next? I mean, of course the parents teach their children to be absolute mini-tyrants, and it can’t be in any case reflective of their genetic attributes and characteristics, can it?

  3. wriggles Says:

    Well done to the BMA for rejecting this nonsense ‘almost unanimously’.
    I cannot believe this quack who proposing it with yet again the cry of ‘we must do something’. Oh yeah? What is that something? According to the med. prof. and politicians etc., the answer is exercise and healthy eating, that’s why they still have not put back cookery on the school curriculum, it used to be but was taken out and replaced with food tech, which seems to consist of studying the packaging of ready meals and designing your own versions.

    Then there is the selling off of school playing fields, something this govt. mentioned in it’s election promises 10 years ago, it’s still doing it.

    Now the fact that this is not going to eliminate child fatness, is not the point, it is that they claim to think it will, yet the continue blithely to do the opposite of what they claim to believe, then blame parents. The public allow them to get away with it for the same reasons that they can get away with it, the deepening stain of fat hatred.
    Where do they come up with the funds to do this, but cannot find them to stop the above, it beggars credulity.

  4. withoutscene Says:

    To add to what Rachel said, even what fatness MIGHT be attributed to “environmental” factors, one of the biggest factors is class…and of all the childhood obesity crusaders out there, no one wants to talk about that. Nutritious food is expensive. Exercise takes time and energy and safe space. Yet you look at guides for children, like the one I scooped up that was put out by InShape Indiana (and CVS and weight loss companies) and they tell kids to ride around their neighborhoods or go to the pool and a host of other things that poor kids to not have access or safe space to do, nor do their parents probably have time to accompany them. No one in the childhood obesity crusade wants to address economic priviledge and it makes me even sicker than hearing about these poor kids and their families.

    These fat kidnappers don’t make a bit of sense.

  5. withoutscene Says:

    …it makes me even sicker than hearing about these poor kids and their families.

    That came out wrong. I meant hearing about what is happening to these kids and their families makes me sick, but the unaddressed priviledge makes me even sicker on top of that.

  6. yumi Says:

    Rather then actually HELP this child by seeing what the cause of her obesity actually is, they simply rip her away from parents and put her in foster care?

    WTF?

    Isn’t FOSTER CARE for children who DON’T HAVE PARENTS?

    So, how exactly do they feel this will help the child? and what exactly are they going to tell her when she grows up? “yes, you had parents, but we had to take you away from them because you were too fat.”

    Genius.

  7. vesta44 Says:

    Foster care is also for kids whose parents abuse them, that’s why fat kids are put in foster care. Because some misguided social worker, teacher, or doctor thinks being fat means a child is being abused. Now, if that child doesn’t get thin in foster care, are they going to send them to another foster home, and another, and another, until the child does get thin (and most of know how likely that is to happen)? This type of thing concentrates only on a child’s physical health and totally ignores their mental health. Is it better to be teased at school for being fat while in a loving home with supportive parents, or is it better to be ripped from that home, teased at school for still being fat, and not have the support of parents that love the child? All this while doctors, social workers, and foster parents accuse fat children of not following their plan for them to get thin. Because we all know that fat children are lazy liars just like their fat parents.
    Social workers are already dealing with case overloads, so how many children who are really being abused are being missed, or sent back to truly abusive parents because fat is now equated with beating, starving, and mentally abusing a child?

  8. Spins Says:

    It’s insanity. As a social worker, albeit one who does not work for child services, I cannot imagine removing a child from their parents if the only “evidence” of “abuse” is that the child is fat.

  9. happymedium Says:

    I was adopted at birth. My sister is my parents’ biological child. Are we supposed to believe there’s something more significant than genetics going on when I tell you that I wear size 24 and my sister mother wear size 4 and size 2, respectively?

  10. Ivory Bill Woodpecker Says:

    Flying. H. Spaghetti. Monster.

    That is evil. Why are some people just not happy unless they’re forcing their views on other people?


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