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Should Childs Weight Tip The Scales In Child Custody Decisions

According to one recent study, approximately 22 percent of children in the United States are currently overweight. Some doctors are advocating that severely obese children be taken out of their homes and placed in state-sponsored foster care.

Many states maintain child custody laws that allow the court to remove children from the home if their health and welfare are at stake; however, many legal advocates and parents think that this is an extreme measure.

This issue brings up a plethora of questions for parents, namely, how much responsibility should be placed on the parent for controlling their child’s weight. Should parents have a legal obligation to restrict their child’s calorie intake and force them to engage in physical activities? What about cases where the child has a genetic disorder or disability? Is it practical for parents to monitor a child’s calorie intake while he is at school or spending time at a friend’s house?

Many parents agree that they have a responsibility to make sure that their kids are healthy, but removing kids from their homes may not be the right answer either.

ABC News recently interviewed a family who has firsthand experience with this family law issue. Several years ago, the family had their 3-year-old daughter removed from their home because she weighed 90 pounds. After spending several months in foster care, the court took notice that the child’s situation was not improving and returned the child to her family. It was later discovered that the child had a medical condition that predisposed her to rapid weight gain.

The above-mentioned case forces us to consider whether this type of legal action is helpful or detrimental to the child. Can you think of a scenario when weight should affect the outcome of a child custody decision?


ABC News: “Childhood Obesity: A Call for Parents to Lose Custody,” Dan Harris, 14 Jul. 2011