Friday, February 17, 2012

Mother Facing 15 Years for Son's Morbid Obesity


When you think of neglect by a parent, you often think of being left alone, abuse, no being properly educated, or paid the proper attention, etc, but recently a new issue has been raised. Is it neglect to have an obese child? And is this grounds for removing the child from their home and even criminal charges against the parents?

This is exactly what they are trying to do in South Carolina to a woman named Jerri Gray. Jerri is the mother of a fourteen year old boy named Alexander Draper, whom weighs five hundred and fifty five pounds. The local Department of Social Services had previously contacted Jerri concerning Alexander’s obesity problem and issued treatment plan to help him lose weight. Alexander did don’t benefit from the plan any and lost no weight, so instead of going to a custody hearing, Jerri and Alex fled to Maryland. This is where they were caught, inside a local laundry mat. Alexander was placed in foster care and his mother, Jerri Gray, was arrested and is now facing two felony charges. She is not only facing felony child neglect charges, but also felony custodial interference charges. These together can have Jerri locked up for fifteen years.

While some argue in favor of charging parents with their child’s obesity issue, many do not support this decision and are outraged at the possibility of such. Those who are in support of charging the parents say that letting your child get so overweight is a huge health risk  and that while it may not pose an imminent threat, it still threatens the child’s life at some point. Medical expert, Ayoob said that the extra 400 pounds could cause significant damage to the skeleton as well as hip and knew problems. It also puts morbidly obese children at the risk for such things as hypertension, heart troubles (maybe even failure), sleep apnea, as well as diabetes and other health issues. Then you have to worry about the issues that those complications can bring. For example, type two diabetes puts you at higher risk for a heart attack, kidney failure, and other blood circulation problems.

So who is at fault, and how far should we go to correct the problem of morbid childhood obesity? Can we really charge the parents with neglect? And if we do, are we really making the situation worse or better? Is it not enough for them to having a loving family?  For instance Jerri Gray was given a treatment plan for her son, which she said she used and tried to make him follow, but he still has other sources and access to food. And at his age, it is easy to get food from friends at school and even when he leaves to just go hang out with others. So how far is too far to hold parents responsible for things such as their children’s weigh? And who says when and if the law should step in? How much control does a parent really have when it comes to controlling what a child eats when they are away from home? And should it really result in a felony? What about other factors that may be effecting the situation (such as money, health insurance, and transportation in Jerri and Alexander’s case)?
REFERENCES
Barnett, Ron. "S.C. case looks on child obesity as child abuse. But is it? - USATODAY.com." News, Travel, Weather, Entertainment, Sports, Technology, U.S. & World - USATODAY.com. N.p., 23 July 2009. Retrieved. 15 Feb. 2012.http://www.usatoday.com/news/health/weightloss/2009-07-20-obesityboy_N.htm
"Childhood Obesity Deemed Child Abuse in Controversial Court Case." Weight Loss surgery Channel. N.p., n.d. Retrieved. 14 Feb. 2012. www.weightlosssurgerychannel.com/breaking-wls-news/childhood-obesity-deemed-child-abuse-in-controversial-court-case.html
Cox, Lauren. "Courts Charge Mother of 555-Pound Boy - ABC News." ABCNews.com - Breaking News, Latest News & Top Video News - ABC News. N.p., 29 June 2009. Retrieved. 14 Feb. 2012. http://abcnews.go.com/Health/WellnessNews/story?id=7941609

16 comments:

  1. This is actually I case that i can identify with. My little cousin is overweight: she isn’t in middle school yet and weighs over three hundred pounds. I know for a fact that she doesn’t just sit around and eat all day long, but she can eat a lot. It is hard to make sure of what she eats because she'll get up and eat at night or while her mom is at work. Her mom also recently found that she has a thyroid problem, which also affects her weigh. I think it’s ridiculous to think that a child can be put into foster car and a mother in jail because of the child’s obesity. Instead of placing him in a home, where the family may or may not treat him well, social workers should take him to the gym twice a week and maybe make better and healthier food more accessible to a family with clear financial issues. Don’t get me wrong, it is a serious issue, but there are too many children being actually neglected and abused to keep adding children in good homes in to the system. Instead the system should use those resources to keep them in their homes and aid in the obesity issue as best they can.

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  2. I think that 15 years for this woman is a harsh sentence, but she did neglect to get him the right treatment regardless if he already had a pre-existing illness that led to his obesity. In my family we stress working out because we have so many diseases that can be prevented by working out. I just don't see why any one wouldn't take action to prevent their child from being more healthy. My friend's dad actually would drop him off places so he would walk back when he became overweight, but we also need to look out for the abused and neglected children as well

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  3. This story was incredibly interesting and the obesity problem in America today is one that needs to be addressed more often. In this case i think that the mother being punished with jail time is a little excessive. Yes Im sure that there is more that she can be doing for her son but lets be serious here... how much control does a parent really have over a teenager. You can do all you can in the house by buying healthy foods and not letting unhealthy meals be made but that child can easily obtain food while at school and with friends and can even go buy it himself. There are many factors playing into the issue at hand. Both mother and son need to be further educated on the problem and I think need to have someone who can be there everyday for the boy pushing him to work out and eat right for the sake of his own life.

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  4. This story is quite interesting seeing as how obesity is a huge problem in America. I think that 15 years for the mother to be put in prison is pretty harsh, yet I don' think she should be held blameless. Parents should control what their children eat by packing healthy lunches and making nutritious dinners. I also think they should encourage their children to be in some sort of athletic activity or other program that engage in physical activities. I feel like if I was the mother of this teen that I would do everything possible to ensure my child’s safety. However, on the other side, a teenager is able to make their own choices. At school or when he's with his friends he has the ability to choose what he wants to eat. Overall, the dangers of obesity need to be educated to parents and children.

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  5. This is a very complex and interesting issue. I suppose my opinion would be that the government should not be holding this mother criminally responsible for her son's obesity. As children get older parents have less and less control over what they do. If this child was 3 or 4, my opinion would be different, but at 15 this teen will not be controlled as easily. He can go to friends houses or walk to fast food restaurants and eat what ever he wants. It is very difficult to control children, especially teenagers. This brings up another idea that I disagree with; the idea that a homeowner is responsible if a child gets into his or her pool, even if it is fenced in and no trespassing signs are posted. Using this logic, perhaps we should be prosecuting the people selling unhealthy foods to kids. Maybe you should have to be over the age of 18 to buy fast food or potato chips, and store owners should have to card you. I don't really believe this, I'm just making the point that some laws and ideas can get out of hand if unchecked. I understand the health concerns and implications, but at a certain point people have to be able to make their own decisions, good or bad.

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  6. When an issue like this is put in front of me, I usually pick a side right away. In this case, I am divided and can not choose a side. On one hand, what gives the government the right to come into a person's family and tell them how to live their lives; on the other hand Alex is in danger of some serious health risks and he is only 14 years old. Some can argue that Jerri deserves 15 years in prison for "slowly killing" her son, but others say that Jerri can not be 100% at fault in this situation. If I was the judge in this case I don't think I would give out a felony or a prison sentence for this, but I would demand that the mother would have to try harder to make a diet plan work. It is going to be very interesting to see how this is going to play out.

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  7. I don’t think it is right that the mother is getting charged with a felony for child neglect, although I can understand how it is considered child neglect. Being that overweight can be as dangerous as being severely underweight for different reasons. So, I think the child should be taken somewhere where he can be watched at all times, because obviously that is necessary for him to get healthy. I do not, however, think that the mother should be charged because the eating was happening when he was out of her care. Although she could not prevent that, she could help her son by getting him the help and constant care that he needs, since she obviously cannot provide it.

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  8. I don’t think it is right for this mother to be charged with 15 years for neglect. I understand that obesity is a huge risk factor in our society but I don’t feel that in this particular situation the mother is at fault. The boy is 14 years old and he should be old enough to understand the health risks of being overweight. Also, his mother isn’t force feeding him. The boy is the one that is making him overweight. The boy needs to take his health into his own hands. Also, I feel that the schools should be doing more to educate the younger youth on the health risks of being overweight. Overall, I feel that the mother is being over sentenced for this situation.

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  9. This is the most absurd thing I have ever heard. The Criminal Justice system is already overflowing with criminals and now we are going to add another crime that will put millions more in the system? That is ridiculous! Americans are known for being overweight and childhood obesity is a problem, but making is a felony is not going to solve anything. Parents can only control their childrens behavior so far and then it is also up to the child to put effort in. A 500lb 14 year old boy is going to do what he wants and the mother should not be punished for this! People need a hobby, and apparently horning in on families with weight issues is what they decided to focus on. I feel there are more important issues for the Criminal Justice system to deal with.

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  10. I think this is a hard topic to draw the line in. In my opinion I don’t think its right for the government to charge the mother with neglect. However, it is the parent’s job to teach children good eating habits and the need to be physically healthy. There comes a point when kids are harder and harder to discipline and at the age of 14, teenagers only listen so much. You brought up many good points about health issues and how it can have short or long term problems. In schools, there is a new implementation of a program called Play 60, which means kids should be active 60 minutes everyday. This worked at the school I used to work at, because the kids were excited that athletes showed interest in their health. Last of all, I wonder if this would be as big of an issue if someone was either anorexic or bulimic? I am not trying to under cut how big of an issue obesity is, but would we be willing to put a mother away because someone is bulimic or anorexic? These eating disorders are becoming a huge issue, and if they are caught in the beginning, it will save many lives.

    I think by figuring out why or how someone becomes obese will be better then putting someone in jail. By finding out if they eat because of being sad, upset, loneliness or to try and become happy, can help change their eating habits. Families and kids have to be willing to change to let someone like a nutritionist and a social worker help save their lives.

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  11. I completely agree with the state stepping in and taking control of this situation. At some point, someone has to do something to help this child out. The mother has admitted that she cannot control her son's diet when she is not around, so that only leaves the state. In many cases similar to what this child is going through, psychological and physical medical factors contribute to obesity at this level.

    That being said, I do not believe the mother should be punished for neglect until the facts of the boy's condition are sorted out. It it is found that the mother allowed the son to eat whatever he wanted, whenever he wanted without regard to his physical health, then she should be prosecuted for child endangerment. If it is a medical issue that is causing his obesity, then that sort of thing usually cannot be controlled without some form of surgery (gastric bypass surgery, which carries high risks in completion, or thyroid surgery) or medication. If it is psychological, then it could take years of therapy, medication, weight management, and nutritional control in order to fix the problem. In any case, it would cost the person footing the bill thousands of dollars.

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  12. I have never heard of such a thing. This is crazy to charge the mother up to 15 years in prison because her son loves to eat, that is ridiculous and unfair. Its hard for the mother to watch her son when he can get food anytime he wants when she not looking or at work. if your son weights over 300 pounds thats a huge problem and she should of took steps from preventing that. I think she made excuses there are a lot of things she could of done to help her son.

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  13. This article does bring up many unanswered questions such as what parents should be responsible for in the lives of their children, or how to handle a situation like this. In this case though we must remember that Jerri Gray’s son is already fifteen years old although not old enough to be on his own but still mature enough to make his own decisions. When thinking about the situation as a whole I don’t like the mother should be liable for her son being overweight seeing as though he can decide how and if he feels necessary to change his life style. Yes being this heavy does have many effects on the bones and parts of your body but if Alexander is happy with his life style who’s to say that if he was to lose this weight he wouldn’t go back to the way he use to live. This is a sticky situation because the mother could have done everything she needed to do in order to help her son lose weight but again it comes up whether he himself wanted to change. This male is fifteen years old and needs to be held responsible for his own actions and life in which he chooses to lead because he is the one that has to deal with the health complications not his mothers and not the law enforcement officers. Fifteen years is ridiculous when it comes to sentencing a mother because he son is overweight, this country is full of overweight citizens what about them, are we going to start arresting all of them? All in all this doesn’t need to be an issue in which the law comes into play it needs to be an issue within the family and the individuals decision to should his/her own life style and deal with the compilations that go along with leading that type of life. As long as they are happy that is really all that matters and should be the only thing that matters to the law enforcement officers.

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  14. The law intervenes when parents do not feed their child enough, thus it makes sense to me that it should intervene when a parent feeds their child too much. I doubt that Alexander suddenly gained an extra 400 pounds since being a teenager. That kind of extra poundage takes time. His mother has a responsibility to ensure her son is safe and healthy. Upon his initial weight gain, no matter the age it occurred at, she should have started to keep a closer eye on what he is eating in addition to the amount of exercise he receives. I feel like she ignored the problem, thus allowing the problem to grow and Alexander to gain more and more weight. Having type 1 diabetes, I do not understand why someone wouldn't want to prevent themselves from getting type 2 diabetes. It frustrates me to no end when people take their health for granted. While I don't think every parent with a child who is overweight should be arrested, I think the school should perhaps help to intervene when a child is overweight, as a preventative measure so that it does not get as bad as in Alexander's case.

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  15. I think that it is reasonable to take a child away from a parent who does not have whats best for the child in mind; especially if they are neglectful towards their child. I don't know if it would be reasonable to charge a mother criminally for feeding her child too much while at the same time contributing to a sedentary lifestyle. I mean the amount that you eat and the amount of activity that you have in your life is your personal choice, you have the right to eat a lot and not exercise. But like I said I think in this case the state needs to intervene to make some drastic changes to this kids lifestyle before its too late. If nothing is done, he will surely face health problems very early in life. Good article

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