Should Parents of Extremely Obese Children Lose Custody?

Should parents lose child custody of severely obese children if they are unable to control their kids’ weight? According to a child custody attorney, a recent editorial in a popular medical journal argues, yes. The authors believe that the government should be allowed to intervene in extreme cases.

The article in Wednesday’s Journal of the American Medical Association stated that parents have lost custody of obese children in the past and putting children temporally in foster care is in some cases more ethical than obesity surgery.

Approximately 2 million US children are extremely obese. Some of these kids have obesity-related conditions such as Type 2 diabetes, sleep apnea, and liver disease that could prematurely end their lives by age 30.

In a case involving a 12 year old girl weighing 400 pounds the state placed her in foster care where she received three balanced meals a day and a snack or two and moderate excercise. She lost 130 pounds after a year in foster care training process. State intervention is not always necessary. Another medical journal article discussed a story about a 440 pound 16-year-old girl who developed breathing problems due to her excess weight. After spending time in the hospital and nearly losing her life the family made lifestyle changes and the girl lost 100 pounds.

Health care providers are required to report at risk kids to the government. Is this fair to parents? Do we really want our government to tell us how to raise our kids? I disagree with Wednesday’s article in the Journal of the American Medical Association. I have always believed that parents need to show a good example for their children and teach them how to lead a healthy lifestyle. But I also believe that our freedoms and liberty are important too.

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Having the freedom to chose how we live, where we live, what we eat, where we work and play is what makes this country great. There are plenty of resources available for parents including this website, to learn about childhood obesity and how to prevent it. Education and example will help end this epidemic not punishment.

Statistics have showed that a majority of families with obese children are living below the poverty level. If the government wants these families to lead healthier lifestyles instead of taking their children away educational programs should be more readily available for these families. Families on the national WIC (Women Infants Children) program learn about how to make healthy food choices for their family. But once your child reaches age 5 you are taken off of the Federal Government funded program. Maybe another program is needed for families with children over the age of five. Don’t take my rights away or the rights of other parents.
*This is an editorial and may not reflect the opinions of all the writers on The Healthy Moms Magazine.

About This Author

Cascia Talbert is a busy blogger, publisher, freelance writer, online merchant and mother of five children, living in The Pacific Northwest. With a B.A. in history and law and a passion for writing and staying healthy, she started The Healthy Moms Magazine in 2007. The Healthy Moms Magazine is currently ranked the top health blog for moms and features several health expert writers and mom bloggers. Ms. Talbert believes that if mothers are well educated on health issues and how to stay healthy, they can pass that information down to their children and reverse the childhood obesity statistics in the U.S.

Ms. Talbert is a featured health blogger at and her articles can also be found on She also runs the Healthy Moms Social Network on Ning, manages Mom’s Natural Health and Wellness Store, and is on the Social Media Advisory Board for America’s Wellness Challenge.

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  • martha brady , July 14, 2011

    my response to that question is: You've got to be kidding me!

    I heard this question on the radio this week and nearly choked. As an RN, I do realize there are health issues involved, but to take a child away from loving parents b/c of obesity…PULEASE!

    This “obesity” issue is getting WAY out of hand. i am hating how the government of the past 2-3 yrs. seems to think all problems can be resolved by having gov't take over. It is so preposterous!

    Our medical care will become like the VA…or worse. Children will be removed from their homes for being obese…to be put where? There aren't enough foster homes now! Are any of these people thinking ahead…or do they just think of the top of it and pop off ideas w/o giving any tho't to consequences…and who will pay for these foster homes for the obese? It gets crazier and crazier.

    Pardon my rant…and it is that. I thought we lived in a country where the gov't was of the people, for the people, by the people…(Lincoln?) All this is sounding like of the gov't, for the gov't and by the gov't…and the people have very little voice. Is this the USA still or did they change the name one night when we weren't looking?

  • Cascia Talbert , July 14, 2011

    I agree, Martha. Thanks for your comment!

  • Justin Germino , July 15, 2011

    You make a good argument, though I don't agree with parents letting kids eat pizza for breakfast, junk food and drink soda all day long…etc. Where does it end? Parents who let kids play violent video games lose custody? Parent's who let kids watch R rated movies…etc?

    Parents have to be role models, but gov't stepping in to separate and break up family is not the solution.

  • Melani Bolyai, L.Ac, Chinese Herbalist , July 18, 2011


    This issue riles me so much. It's enough to know that the government is in control of GM soybeans and now possibly genetically modified alfafa that nice friendly “organically” fed cows will eat to produce our “organic” dairy products. But the issue of corn being produced in such mass quantities that the government has to produce high fructose corn syrup and put it in EVERYTHING just to get rid of a subsidized surplus is mind-bogglingly outrageous. And that's what these poor children, and no doubt, their parents, are eating.

    What is frustrating is that many kids who are dangerously obese and simultaneously undernourished are low-income, and their parents struggle with having to make a choice between a 2 liter of Coke for $2 or a Gallon of milk for $5 or 6. Or fruit snacks with “vitamin C” instead of a fresh orange. There is a fundamental issue of information and education that needs to be addressed. It's daunting, but at least Michelle Obama is on the right track.

    I agree that we cross over a dangerous ethical boundary with how much we allow the government to control parenting. But before we allow the government to control families, we need to ask them to give up control of conglomerates like Monsanto and shift attention back to local and sustainable farms that provide nutrition to everyone.

    Melani Bolyai, L.Ac.

  • Cascia Talbert , July 18, 2011

    “What is frustrating is that many kids who are dangerously obese and simultaneously undernourished are low-income, and their parents struggle with having to make a choice between a 2 liter of Coke for $2 or a Gallon of milk for $5 or 6. Or fruit snacks with “vitamin C” instead of a fresh orange. There is a fundamental issue of information and education that needs to be addressed. It's daunting, but at least Michelle Obama is on the right track. “

    Great point, Melani. Thanks for your comment!

  • Stephanie H. , July 19, 2012

    I have to say If the children are severely obese and the parents are not willing to do anything to help control the child's weight then YES the children should be taken away. I had a neighbor who had 3 severely over weight girls her oldest went to kindergarten weighing almost 100 pounds. She also had a 9 month old that was over 60 pounds her philosophy was I am fat their father is Fat so they are going to be fat. When I watch the children I was told quite bluntly by their mother that they have free run on sugared cereal and cake even the candy jar but that they needed to ask permission before having juice or an apple.I was shocked. Floored is more like it. I was raised where I could have apples, carrots and and milk and water with out asking but Sugared cereal was only on Saturdays and only after my mom mixed it 50/50 with an unsweetened cereal. So Yes there are parents that need to have their severely obese children removed from their home to protect the child from neglect in the sense of not teaching them the appropriate ways to eat. And severely endangering their health. I watched these girls almost 20 years ago. One of them is already dead of a Heart attack because she got to over 300 pounds and her body couldn't handle the weight

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