Recently, Harvard University child obesity expert Dr. David Ludwig advocated for the removal of severely obese children from their homes. An estimated two million children in the United States would qualify for this government intervention. Say what?
In the Journal of the American Medical Association article, Dr. Ludwig along with Lindsey Murtagh, a lawyer and researcher at Harvard’s School of Public Health, wrote, “In severe instances of childhood obesity, removal from the home may be justifiable, from a legal standpoint, because of imminent health risks and the parents' chronic failure to address medical problems."
First, let me note that I would never want to see a child’s health at risk because of neglectful, lazy parents. However, I have major issues with the solution that Dr. Ludwig offers. Here’s why:
1. The United States is the only developed nation that doesn’t require some form of paid maternity leave. Since the government has left that little treasure on the table for companies to offer as a benefit if they choose, or for states to require of businesses within their borders, most working women do not receive any pay during the legally protected period of absence. (California is the only state that requires companies to provide pay during maternity leave.)
Because most women need to work in order to survive as single parents or as a double income home, they are forced to return to their jobs much sooner than they would like which can create obstacles in being able to nurse for the one year’s time recommended by the American Association of Pediatrics. Studies have indicated that bottle-fed babies are more likely to become obese. Instead of taking kids away from their families, the government should focus its efforts on passing legislation giving mothers the financial freedom to stay at home and breastfeed.
2. A household where parents are working during times that children are out of school often results in latch-key kids. I know, I was one of them. Instead of children coming home to an empty house and filling their time with snacks, TV and video games – which have all been blamed for weight gain -- we should be able to send to our children to state-funded after-school play programs.
Imagine this: The school bell rings and your child is done with academics for the day. Instead of walking home and spending hours alone, your child goes to the school playground or gym were there is supervised free play, sports and games. At the end of the school day, your child has become smarter, stronger and is ready to relax and go to bed.
3. Since when did the foster care system become the model for raising children? I don’t know about you, but the last time I checked the system had an awful reputation for churning out physically, mentally and sexually abused children.
A 2003 study published in Child Trends Research Brief, showed that almost one-third (29 percent) of children in foster homes are living below the poverty threshold. Additionally, the U.S. General Accounting office found “young foster children do not receive adequate preventive health care while in placement, many significant problems go undetected, or, when diagnosed are not evaluated and treated.”
Finally, approximately 40 percent of the children who graduate from the foster care system at age 18 will become homeless or be imprisoned within four years, according to a University of Wisconsin study. Another study stated that, "former foster youth are found to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) at two times the level of U.S. war veterans."
So this, Dr. Ludwig, is the crippled system that's supposed to make fat kids better?
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