Jan 16, 2009, 11:18AM

The Limits of Government

Is it morally correct to take dangerously obese children away from their parents?


Courts in California, Iowa, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, and Texas have recognized childhood morbid obesity as a legal issue. However, removing an obese child from an otherwise adequate home inaccurately suggests that parents have complete control over their children’s diet and exercise. This is not the case. For example, Brittany’s parents testified that Brittany (who was 12 years old) was known to have snacks after school and to “sneak food” at home. Anyone who has spent any time around older children (or who recalls their own childhood) knows that children do not always do as they are told. A finding of neglect in these cases also fails to consider the extent of schools’ responsibility for the rise in childhood obesity. Many schools have cut their physical education programs from five days a week (when I was in public school) to only once a week in some districts. In addition, schools serve high-caloric meals and provide vending machines stocked with junk food. In fact, the New York Appellate Division found that Brittany’s food consumption at school, rather than her parents’ allowance of inappropriate foods, may have been the cause of her 25 pound weight gain. Many parents serve their children only one meal—dinner. It is unlikely that parents are solely or even primarily responsible for the rise in childhood obesity.


Register or Login to leave a comment