A family has been threatened with the removal of their four children if the parents don’t get their kids’ weight under control, The Daily Mail reports. Three years ago, the Dundee family council raised concerns about four of the family’s six children, deciding that they must slim down, or risk being placed in foster care. To achieve that end, the Dundee social services department ruled that the children must follow a stricter diet, and required visits to the dietitian. According to the follow-up report, the children’s weight showed no improvement, and added the parents didn’t keep the scheduled dietitian appointments.
At that point their then 12-year-old son weighed 16 stone [196 pounds]; his 11-year-old sister weighed 12 stone [168 pounds]; and his three-year-old sister weighed four stone [56 pounds]. It is not known how much the four younger children weigh now.
Subsequently, the family were forced to separate, so that three children could move with one of their parents into a council flat where social workers monitored the children’s meals and schedules. The whole family had to keep to a 11pm curfew, and the council had staff members on site to observe and supervise the meals. After the children missed several meal times and violated curfew when visiting their father, who lived at a different council flat, the council aborted what it referred to as “experiment,” and the family was evicted from their apartment. The children were turned over to foster care.
The family’s lawyer, Joe Myles, described the entire ordeal as an overreach by the government and has said that they will seek to overturn the council decision as a violation of the human rights laws.
Although this is the first case of the government seeking to classify extreme childhood obesity as a abuse, earlier this year a Harvard University study found that effects of obesity in children could be severe enough to support such view. CNN reports that researchers Lindsey Murtagh and Dr. David S. Ludwig find that in certain cases, especially when parents lack understanding of nutrition, and there’s additional neglect, the removal of obese children could be justified.
“State intervention may serve the best interests of many children with life-threatening obesity, comprising the only realistic way to control harmful behaviors,” the authors say in the commentary. They argue this would be a better alternative than the expensive and potentially dangerous weight loss surgery that is sometimes used to treat obese adolescents.