Is obesity child abuse?

MARION, IL (KFVS) - Should parents be held accountable if their children are overweight? Some researchers not only say 'yes', they say letting your kids become obese is a form of child abuse.

In a published article, they suggest removing children from a home could be justifiable if there is proof that the parents repeatedly refused to address a child's health problems.

Critics say the theory is well-intentioned, but misguided. Among those critics is Lutheran Social Services (LSSI) Program Director Linda Reiss.

"To just take children and put them in foster care because they're obese I think would be devastating to the child, to the parent, and to the system," said Reiss. "Our system is barely able to keep up with the children who are in immediate and urgent danger."

Reiss says if a social worker were to look at removing an obese child from a home there are a lot of factors to consider:

  1. Is the child genetically pre-disposed to be overweight?
  2. Is the child an emotional eater? Reiss says removing him or her from home could make that worse.
  3. Could teaching a parent to cook healthier meals be a better solution than foster care?
  4. Is it a medical condition that's been left unchecked? because that she says - could be considered neglect.

"If a parent is not following doctor's orders, and is not willing to follow doctor's orders - then we've got a situation," said Reiss.

Reiss says removing an obese child from a home would have to be reviewed very carefully on a case-by-case basis. If it's a case of medical neglect, then she says it's something to consider. Otherwise, if there are no other signs of abuse she would rather see every effort made to keep the child at home.

"If the child is in immediate and urgent danger then yes, the child should be removed, but that's not something that can be based solely on how much they weigh," said Reiss.

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