Video: Is childhood obesity child abuse/neglect?

posted at 2:25 pm on July 22, 2009 by Ed Morrissey

Bad cases make bad law, says the axiom, and this applies here. Obviously, this teenager has a serious problem that his mother ignored. If she gets prosecuted for felony abuse/neglect, does this open the floodgates to government prosecution of a wide swath of American parenthood? Or does this extreme case justify South Carolina’s actions? Watch the clip:


The mother’s story doesn’t add up, in my opinion. Teenagers eat a lot of bad food when they visit friends, but they don’t all put on 400 pounds of fat. Undoubtedly the mother has had a tough time raising the teen alone, but again, we don’t have legions of 555-pound teens coming from latchkey situations. At the very least, the mother failed to respond properly to the morbid weight gain of her son, who’s practically an invalid at that weight — and notice that her attorney doesn’t claim that the son has some unusual medical condition, but that he simply ate his way to 555 pounds.

I’d say this is actionable by the state and that they’re being reasonable in charging her with criminal abuse/neglect. I understand and agree with the “slippery slope” argument to a point, but this is a case so extreme that failure to respond would be neglect in and of itself. Your opinions may differ, though, so take the poll!



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Can’t say it should be criminal but I do think he should be removed from her care because it appears tha5t she is unable to properly care for him

katiejane on July 22, 2009 at 3:24 PM

That’s similar to how I feel. I don’t see a huge difference between this and a parent who keeps the house stocked with liquor knowing his kid is an alcoholic with a liver problem.

Esthier on July 22, 2009 at 5:22 PM

Also, I’m not really buying the idea that her being a single mother with two jobs is the problem. I can see that it helps to have two parents who aren’t always at work, but there’s no reason she can’t cook a well balanced meal (or several) when she has time, freeze them and reheat them when she gets home for dinner instead of buying fast food junk.

Not only would her son eat better that way, she’d also be saving a ton of money. Fast food is cheap, but the real thing is cheaper.

Esthier on July 22, 2009 at 5:33 PM

I’ve read a sampling of the comments, so forgive me if this has been addressed or asked.

Do you think it is abuse to abandon a child to raise itself or by unsavory characters on the street?

I have a friend who works with teenagers, and he constantly recounts stories to me about how these kids have deadbeat parents who let them roam the streets at all hours or even allow it to go on for days and weeks. Isn’t that abuse? It makes their future hopeless, and in many of the cases with which he works the children are put on a life trajectory that lands them in the penal system. Is that abuse?

I had another friend whose child put a pea up her nose at the dinner table one night. They took her to the emergency room. Representatives from Child Protective Services separated him and his wife and interrogated them about whether or not they abused or neglected the child. Crazy, isn’t it?

There’s no balance. There’s no consistency. My friend love their little girl, and she was fun. At the same time they were in the emergency room, thousands of children were loose on the streets falling under the spell of drug dealers and gang leaders.

When parents leave their children to run and roam, they should be treated the same as the person who physically abuses a child. Usually, the government shovels more money to the situation, making the neglectful and abusive practice profitable.

Ampleforth on July 22, 2009 at 5:45 PM

Ampleforth on July 22, 2009 at 5:45 PM

Gov. programs cannot solve the problem…often they are worse as your example.
They go for the “low hanging fruit”, the easily identifiable, but ignore the real problems, like the kids on the street.

right2bright on July 22, 2009 at 6:41 PM

Sue McDonalds. Immediately. It is not the mother’s fault. It is the fault of McDonalds for serving juicy burgers at affordable prices.

I’m sure someone already said this, but what the heck.

Also, this poor child is as bloated as McBama’s Budget.

Key West Reader on July 22, 2009 at 6:48 PM

When parents leave their children to run and roam, they should be treated the same as the person who physically abuses a child. Usually, the government shovels more money to the situation, making the neglectful and abusive practice profitable.

Ampleforth on July 22, 2009 at 5:45 PM

You cannot fund or produce nurturing responsible parents. Believe it or not, even The Obama cannot fund this.

My parents were a disaster; both severe alcoholics, abusive, neglectful (I still love them both). As humans we can make choices. I made a choice NOT to be like my parents and NOT to raise my kids that way. We are all free to make a choice on who and what we want to be.

At least for now.

Key West Reader on July 22, 2009 at 6:51 PM

Also, this poor child is as bloated as McBama’s Budget.

Key West Reader on July 22, 2009 at 6:48 PM

The Oompa Loompas need to roll him to the juicing room.

portlandon on July 22, 2009 at 6:55 PM

I thought picture was Obama, post-Porkulus, getting ready for his Presser tonight.

Parents who do not keep their kids reasonably fit are unfit.

profitsbeard on July 22, 2009 at 7:01 PM

A judge and other people should (assume they have already) sit down and talk to this mother and gently but firmly explain to her that what she’s allowing is killing her baby.

But, he’s also old enough to understand the consequences of his over eating.

*shrugs*…some families are just like that, overweight. I won’t make fun of them or put them down.

Like I told my child one day as a house rule: “We don’t make fun of other people’s bodies.”

Dr. ZhivBlago on July 22, 2009 at 7:06 PM

this kind of case really gives me pause. My son has battled his weight practically since babyhood. I did, and he did, pretty much everything we could. I talked to his pediatrician about it at every visit. He advised my son would outgrow it and that I needed to stop “obsessing” about his weight. Once he asked me what would I do if he grew up to be fat, would I love him less. I was quite taken aback by that and the answer was certainly and emphatically no. We saw nutritionists, kept food diaries, an endocronolgist many times who answer was “well he is borderline” I never understood what he was “borderline” with. I kept him active, he swam, played just about any sport that came along, and that wasn’t hard as he loved baseball, football and hockey. When he was old enough I enrolled him in a gym and got him a trainer (we are talking serious money I really didn’t have here). The end result is at 22 he is still fighting his weight, still trying to eat right and exercise and it is clearly going to be a life long battle. Obviously the in this story mother was not as focused as she could have been on her son’s weight, but I know from the outside it is hard to judge what mom was doing or not doing.

Willie on July 22, 2009 at 7:07 PM

someone mentioned fat mom, fat kid. I’m not overweight by any means and neither is his father. However. on both sides there are chronically overweight aunts and uncles

Willie on July 22, 2009 at 7:10 PM

OK, now Im really depressed because people are noting this is a single parent household and I am a single parent. But we didn’t live in a vaccum, he grew up in my childhood home with me and my folks and one of my sisters and her son next door (my sister is a widow, we don’t have a habit of single mothers in the family, just me)

Willie on July 22, 2009 at 7:13 PM

OK, now Im really depressed because people are noting this is a single parent household and I am a single parent.

dont be depressed,you sound like a great parent :)

surrounded on July 22, 2009 at 7:17 PM

Willie on July 22, 2009 at 7:13 PM

I don’t think the number of parents has anything to do with it.

One parent can set a good dietary example just as good as two can.

blatantblue on July 22, 2009 at 7:21 PM

You don’t get to 555 by eating junk food. You get there by eating four times as much as a normal person. Also, the cheapest bulk food in the world is bread and pasta, so that’s what poor people eat a lot of.

Regardless, it’s none of yours or my business at all. Keep your nose out of it and encourage your representatives to do the same. It isn’t wrong because of some slippery slope argument. It’s just wrong. Some of you just like dicking with people because you don’t approve of them. You don’t know her. You don’t know him. You don’t know how to mind your own business. Turn that spotlight around if you’ve got that much energy and start scrubbing the stains from your life.

I can’t believe we’re having this argument on HA. Who are these pesky Orwellian hellhounds?

Immolate on July 22, 2009 at 7:42 PM

surrounded & blatentblue:
thank you.

Willie on July 22, 2009 at 7:51 PM

Is that a picture of the new Surgeon General?

bayview on July 22, 2009 at 8:09 PM

LOL! You bastard. I got rice all up my nose.

Sapwolf on July 22, 2009 at 8:18 PM

I thought picture was Obama, post-Porkulus, getting ready for his Presser tonight.

Parents who do not keep their kids reasonably fit are unfit.

profitsbeard on July 22, 2009 at 7:01 PM

Bastard!

Sapwolf on July 22, 2009 at 8:19 PM

Perhaps it’s not what but WHO he’s eating.

Jeff from WI on July 22, 2009 at 8:22 PM

I get it. The same people who want to criminalize parents for letting kids get obese, praise abortion doctors for wholesale slaughter of helpless infants. Makes perfect sense (if you’re a total whacko).

MaiDee on July 22, 2009 at 9:49 PM

The government that has the power to prosecute you for letting your children get fat has the power to prosecute you for teaching other “wrong ideas” to you children.

Not every screw-up (verb or noun) is a government problem with a government solution.

We’re already halfway there, socialized medicine pretty much has to evolve into behavior control in an attempt to keep costs down. What looks like an extreme case here (what’s the saying about cases that make bad law?) could very quickly become the norm as the “single payer” decides it has to get your costs down.

Merovign on July 22, 2009 at 11:18 PM

Richard, I do believe my friends Mom was a single parent, if I remember correctly.

Geronimo on July 22, 2009 at 2:49 PM

And your point is?

There are exceptions, yes, but don’t you think a healthy society depends on a strong family unit?

Richard Romano on July 23, 2009 at 12:19 AM

I’ve heard/read that the state tried other methods of intervention and the mother would/did not cooperate.

IS there a source for that? The only place I’ve seen it is in unsupported third party claims here. According to her lawyers the state’s primary claim about her ‘refusing’ to cooperate is the situation where the single mother working two jobs managed to get enough time off to take her son to another state where they’d been offered a slot in a very good program- only to be turned away at the door when the program administrators realized just how big the kid was- and the administrators of this 30,000 dollar, fully supervised, residential program told her they couldn’t help her. IF those experts couldn’t help her, how is a working mother with two jobs supposed to have managed to control what a 14 year old boy eats- especially when the school is letting him eat a plurality of lunches every day?


Having a fat child is one thing – but letting a teen become disabled due to morbid obesity is parental neglect/abuse.

It’s not a felony. It’s not a good reason to charge the mother with a felony and punish the kid by putting him in foster care.


Can’t say it should be criminal but I do think he should be removed from her care because it appears tha5t she is unable to properly care for him

I totally disagree that the state should remove a child for behavior you do not consider criminal. I find it appalling to give the state the right to remove children from parents who have not committed a crime.

Ragspierre- Her lawyers say the kid was eating extra meals at school, more than one lunch. It’s obvious he wasn’t SKIPPING lunch, nor it is likely he was limiting himself to one lunch, so yeah I am inclined to believe them. Far more inclined to believe them than CPS.

And, look, if mom tried everything she could, does anyone here think that anybody would be messing with her?

Uh, yeah, I sure do.

DeputyHeadmistress on July 23, 2009 at 2:24 AM

No – Have you tried controlling teenagers? 14% (265 votes)

Fail.

Reaps on July 23, 2009 at 6:23 AM

At least the kid has enough stored fat to last a while when Obamas economy really bogs down next year.

Jeff from WI on July 23, 2009 at 6:53 AM

His carbon footprint and that of every house on his block is still much lower than Al Gore’s.

Geochelone on July 23, 2009 at 7:47 AM

He looks pretty happy to me.

CynicalOptimist on July 23, 2009 at 9:46 AM

And where is the father? Ask her that.

federale86 on July 23, 2009 at 2:17 PM

At least she is working.

federale86 on July 23, 2009 at 2:18 PM

and he says. hey, hey, hey it’s fat albert

workingforpigs on July 23, 2009 at 3:38 PM

sounds like a class action lawsuit against McDonalds to me… can we say McFat.

workingforpigs on July 23, 2009 at 3:39 PM

carbohydrates=insulin=fat

get him off the carbs and his weight would plummet.

jsunrise on July 24, 2009 at 10:55 AM

PS. the parent is responsible for the TYPE of food brought into the house.

jsunrise on July 24, 2009 at 10:56 AM

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