Dr. Manny Says: Obesity Is Not Legitimate Reason to Remove Children from Homes

There’s an article I’d like to direct you to on Fox News today concerning an opinion piece published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, which advocates taking severely obese children out of their homes temporarily and placing them in foster care.The author, Dr. David Ludwig, an obesity specialist at Harvard-affiliated Children’s Hospital Boston, emphasized that the point of the measure wouldn’t be to to blame parents, but rather to act in the best interest of the children and get them help that their parents may not be able to provide.

In other words, according to Ludwig and his co-author Lindsey Murtagh, a lawyer and a researcher at Harvard’s School of Public Health, this measure would be taken to “protect the child.”

To me, the most extreme measure in protecting a child is to remove that child from his or her family. Regrettably, I know that this is a necessary action for many children in this country.

However, cases in which child removal is recommended must be thoroughly investigated. Physical abuse, mental abuse and other such factors are clear signals that placing a child in foster care is necessary, but I’m not sure that severe obesity falls within those guidelines.

In my opinion, to promote that the best thing for an obese child is to remove that child from a family is premature and could potentially be more damaging in the long run.

I know that there have been cases where state intervention both here and in other countries have taken extremely obese children away from their families, but questions still remain as to whether or not that was the right action to take.

I continue to believe and to advise to my patients and friends that the best way to fix health problems is to empower individuals.

We all know that the weight problem that America has, especially in young children, is often deep-rooted in economic factors. For example, sometimes parents have to work two jobs or have a limited budget for healthy food.

And it certainly doesn’t help that food companies are marketing left and right to children that they should be part of their new and exciting products.

Taking those factors into consideration, I am even more certain that removing a child from his or her home is not the best approach.

If we’re going to head in that direction, then why not remove kids from homes when they have failing grades? You may have a child that is doing poorly in school, and the argument could be that parents are not good tutors or not checking homework, and are therefore permanently damaging their kids by not providing them with enough education. Could the state step in and remove children from their homes in this case? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.