Figures released this week have shown that in the last 5 years in the UK up to 74 morbidly obese children have been taken in to care. The quote from the department of education is
“This is not an issue about children who might be a few pounds overweight. This is about protecting those facing significant and possibly even life-threatening problems.”
For those who aren’t aware schools in the UK have a voluntary weigh and measure scheme, the school nurse will weigh and measure children in the class, weights are not shared and children are not informed of the results, the results trigger a letter automatically if the child falls in to the overweight category. What the parents do with that information is up to them, it’s caused some controversy in the UK with parents claiming it causes kids to have more awareness of their physical appearance than necessary, I’m on the fence on that one. I actually don’t think the mere act of standing on scales makes kids aware of their weight in relation to their position in their class, their eyes can do that just as easily and letters are sent to parents not kids, parents have control over how that impacts the children.
Now, I’ve already seen some comments about “we should be working with families not taking children away” and believe me, as a former employee of childrens services, these kids were not weighed and put in foster care and like the quote says, these are not kids who are a little overweight. The children recorded under 11 years old, one (boy) was over 23st (322lbs/146kg), and a girl over 21st (294 lbs/133kg). To put this in perspective Charlie is 7 years old, he sits dead on the middle centile so is considered “average” weight for his age and weights 2st 7lbs (35lbs/16kg).
Family services intervention is actually pretty rare if you go by the population, it’s only done when its either asked for or there are concerns for children’s wellbeing. What actually happens is plans are made with the family to turn those concerns around, goals are set and support put in place for them to support the family in helping their children reach their potential and fix what could have been going wrong. Removing a child (who is not in immediate danger) is a lengthy and laborious process for good reason.
I guess what this shows is a shift in the way that we deal with our health and it’s relationship with weight, particularly in Children. I think most people would be hard pushed to say that a 322lb eleven year old is being well cared for. For what reasons there could be a myriad, but I can’t help but feel for them, I never reached that weight myself as an adult even at my biggest but I was hideously uncomfortable. I should say, I say this without judgement of the parents, what is important in these cases are the children. We are becoming a more health led society, its becoming more socially acceptable to be a runner than to spend the weekend binge drinking, and we’ve learnt that healthy habits ingrained early lead to, in the majority, healthy habits later in life. I’ve seen time and time again when people tell their story that their childhoods have impacted their adult health considerably. I don’t mean that they had to have traumatic childhood either, but habits then lead to habits now.
A good point is made in the article above though, if kids are removed from the (hopefully) care and comfort of their parents, what will they turn to? Support needs to be in place for these children that helps them relearn how to live healthily and allows them to do so without stigma. Its probably a seriously difficult balance to find and one I don’t have an answer too right now. I know my feelings about child raising are not the same as everyone elses, I would never force my opinion on anyone either. What I do teach him is where his food comes from, what it does to our bodies and what we need to moderate.
Do you feel society shifting to one of more healthy expectation or has it always been like that? What do you wish you’d learnt as a child?