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Should parents lose custody of obese children? Atlantans say no

A recent opinion article in the Journal of the American Medical Association has Atlantans up in arms. The article says that the state should step in when children are extremely obese. It also suggests that parents should face some legal consequences, including losing custody of their children. Atlantans, on the other hand, would rather see a change in how families with obese children are supported than punishing parents and children.

Georgia has one of the worst rates of childhood obesity. Almost 38 percent of children ages ten to seventeen are overweight or obese. Nationwide, however, there are approximately 2 million extremely obese children. Some of the risks associated with extreme obesity include Type II diabetes, hypertension, sleep apnea and other breathing difficulties and liver problems. These problems are severe and some of these 2 million children will have significantly shorter life spans if changes are not made to their diets.

One Jonesboro school social worker has stressed the importance of educating children and their parents, rather than stripping the parents of custody. Taking children away from their families is an extreme, but the social worker argues that what these families need is a balanced approach to deal with their children’s weight problems. This includes a healthy diet and plenty of activity.

A local advocacy group has pointed out, however, that living a healthy life is not always easy. Children do not always like to be monitored by their parents, especially teens. It can be hard for parents to control what their children eat when their children struggle under a parental yoke. Additionally, healthy foods often cost more.

Another parent argues that the problem of childhood obesity needs to be attacked at its source. She believes that the production of junk food in America should be curbed and the media should no longer advertise junk food to children.

While the problem of childhood obesity raises many different opinions, it is clear that Atlantans object to parents losing custody of their obese children.

Source: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “Atlantans say taking obese kids from parents is wrong,” Gracie Bonds Staples, 13 July 2011