Dr Oz: Childhood Obesity. Should The Child Be Removed From The Home?

Should the courts remove obese children from the home?The Dr. Oz Show presented the controversial subject of childhood obesity and should it be considered child abuse.  We were introduced to parents of obese children who felt some responsibility for their child’s obesity problem but didn’t think it should be considered child abuse. But the childhood obesity is increasing at such an alarming rate that states across the country are trying to find ways to intervene for the health and safety of the child.  There have been cases where children have been taken from the home.  Have we gone too far?  Is taking a child from their home really going to help?

Dr. Oz’s guest, Dr. Alan Greene, MD pediatrician and author of Feeding Baby Green says that letting a child become obese does harm a child and childhood obesity is a serious problem.  Before the courts take a child from the home they look at what’s going on in the household.  If the parents are engaged and willing to fix the problem the courts try to empower them to take responsibility and to give them the tools and support to make the change.  It’s when the parents are not willing to take responsibility is when the court intervenes.  But is removing a child from their home better for the child?

Dr. Oz helped answered that question by introducing us to two teenagers who enrolled in the Wellspring Academy of the Carolinas.  Wellspring is a boarding school where every child that is enrolled is obese.  By taking children out of their home, Wellspring can then reprogram dangerous eating habits learned and enabled by their parents.  In addition to academics, children learn nutrition and cooking skills and they have physical education every day.  It is the scene of the reality show Too Fat for Fifteen.  Dr. Oz’s two teen guests were featured on that show.

Tanisha Mitchell, 17 years old, used to weigh 511 pounds.  After two years she is now 235 pounds, a total of 276 pounds lost.

In her household, there was a lot of fast food eating.  Tanisha did not want to go to Wellspring.  She said it took her being sent there for her to realize that Wellspring was where she needed to be to get the help she needed.  When she first got there she could barely even take 10 steps.  She’s very thankful for the  opportunity to have gone there.

Tanisha felt her parents are partly to blame for her obesity.  As a child she was diagnosed with a bone disease and spent a lot of time immobilized in bed but she said she was fed a lot of unhealthy food. She said her parents didn’t know what they were doing. They needed to be educated on how to eat healthy and she is now working on helping them learn what she’s learned in school.

Dr. Oz asked her if she thought there are a lot of kids out there crying out for help and would want somebody to come into their home, invade their privacy and save them?  Tanisha said she thought there are a lot of kids that want to be saved but it’s also about wanting to save yourself and she has come a long way with that decision.

Carsyn Nash, 18 years old, was 203 pounds.  After about a year Carsyn lost 50 pounds and is now 153 pounds.  She was in a household of very fit and healthy parents but felt overly pressured to lose weight from them.  She said her weight and her size was always excepted outside of the family so she resented her parents for not excepting her weight.  So she started eating out of spite.

She felt getting out of the home made an amazing difference in her weight loss success because there she was with other overweight  people like herself and did not feel pressured by her physically fit parents and “98 pound” 20 year old sister.

Her mother said that Carsyn was pre-diabetic and had high cholesterol and she was very concerned about the long-term health consequences. She felt if she didn’t intervene it would be equivalent to Carsyn’s “parental assisted suicide”.  But she couldn’t find a way to help her stop over eating and her emotionally driven behavior.

Eliza Kingsford, Senior Clinical Director of Wellspring felt that the term “child abuse” has an inferred intension about it. Wellsprings views the obesity problem as a “multi-faceted complex problem” that deserves a “multi-faceted complex solution”.  We can’t blame it all on just the parents. Everyone needs to take responsibility for their part in it.  The parents do hold the lion’s share of the responsibility for providing healthy options in the home and the ability to exercise. But the child has got to want this for themselves.

Dr. Oz says he feels that because Tanisha and Carsyn were able to changed their lives by their weight lose as a result of being removed from the home raises the temperature of the debate and that perhaps it is not a bad idea to get involved in people’s lives to help save their lives.

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