Removing Obese Kids From Homes

I read an article (I can’t remember what site, sorry) suggesting obese children should be removed from their homes by the state, much like neglected or abused children. The assumption was over-eating is similar to under-eating and is neglect of the child, or similar to abuse. On the one hand, I agree it’s unhealthy to feed children processed food, fast food, or other nutrient-deficient food. But on the other hand, is it really abuse? Or is it lack of education, time, funds, etc.? And if this is approved, what the heck will CPS do with these children? They can already hardly handle the ones in their care. And available foster families are already limited. Would this child really be in better hands “in the system?” 

And that said, just becuase a parent allows a child to over-eat, does it mean a parent doesn’t love and care for the child? No. Does it mean they don’t give them everything else they need in other areas of their lives? No. Is the child in immediate danger? No. Even the fattest adults aren’t always in immediate risk. In fact, many morbidly obese adults live into their 60s (although it’s rare to see someone much older than that, isn’t it?). So saying a 9 year old is in imminent danger is off the mark. And the bigger problem is kids love junk food and it’s seen as a reward. And parents (and grandparents and aunts and uncles) often times bask in the fun it is to go for ice cream, bake and eat cookies, cut a slice of cake. I know I’m guilty of it. And some of my family members even moreso. Many of us have been raised to equate food to love and reward. And it’s hard to break that habit. And hard not to show the little ones around us love the same way we felt love as a child.

But the cycle should be broken. I find myself rewarding one of my nephews with food. He loves on you and is so happy when he’s getting any type of sweet treat. He’s the only one of my nieces and nephews I do this for, but it’s hard not to want to give him more because he loves it so much. However, that’s the very reason we shouldn’t reward him with it or equate it to love. He’s already positioned to have some type of affliction for sweets. So we don’t want to perpetuate it by rewarding him. Instead, we need to expand his palate for healthier foods. And make sure sweets are “normal,” given in healthy portions (for a 3 year old, that shouldn’t be much), and aren’t associated with any type of reward. I personally thnk it’s OK to say dessert comes after dinner, showing that the healthy foods are necessary and important. But sweets shouldn’t be withheld because he was bad. Or given because he learns to write his name. I was given lots of foods as a reward. I know I equated fast food with special occasions. And when I was given free reign to eat it, I loved the freedom I had. And ate it. All the time. This is why I am where I am.

I don’t blame my parents. First, because they didn’t have as much knowledge as we do now about nutrition. Plus, the obesity epidemic wasn’t what it is now. We were thin as children, and even through high school. But I saw fast food as a treat. Instead, I feel like my parents would have been better off preaching how unhealthy it is and why. And if we had to have it, somehow making sure it wasn’t seen as a treat, but rather as a downgrade from a home cooked meal. I’m not sure that’s possible. Because all of the sugar and fat and other “good stuff” feels good when it gets in our veins. Especially when you never get it.

I don’t know what the answer is. I don’t think removing kids from homes is the answer. I think doctors need to be more straight-forward, pointing it out as soon as a child leaves the healthy range. Prescribing healthier habits. Requiring more frequent doctor visits. Making sure parents see that it’s unhealthy.

And I think many parents don’t have or make time to make home-cooked meals. Instead of spending the money to put the children in protective services, help parents learn how to make quick/healthy meals that can be frozen. Or are good for more than one meal. Help them see how the kids can be involved.

And I wish there were more local outdoor/active events for children. Heck, I wish there were more for adults! Start programs. Free programs (again, take the money from whatever it would cost to pullthese children from their homes). Led by volunteers who can write their time off as a tax deduction similar to giving to charities. Get communities involved. I’d help lead a program for children in my neighborhood, if I knew how to get started, and had a safe way to help parents see I’m not a predator. I’d ride bikes with a group of kids. Or walk to the park and supervise and play. I’d even be willing to teach older kids (tweens and teens) how to cook and cook with them in their house (on their budget – I’m not made of money). They could pick the meal and supply the groceries. A group could put together ingredient lists, a list of tools that are required, and age ranges that could make a meal.

There are so many things we could be doing rather than pulling children from homes or assuming parents don’t care. I think they do.

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