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)?
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