A 360-pound divorced dad of two believes that a judge in Canada has put his two children—ages 5 and 6—up for adoption because… he’s obese. Yep. It seems that being overweight is grounds for taking kids away from their parents. Personally, I find that frightening (and no, I’m not overweight).
The judge’s decision was based in part on recommendations made by a medical adviser to the court who wrote that the dad “struggled with obesity for years, which impacts significantly on most aspects of his life including [his] functioning as a parent.” A bit further down in this medical report, the doctor adds that, “He was short of breath or winded in simply walking short distances about the clinic and he lacks both the mobility and stamina required to keep up with young and active children.”
Excuse me, but whether a parent can keep up with “young and active children” is no one’s business but the parent’s. And it’s especially not the government’s business. Are we going to take children away from a pregnant mom who’s on bed rest (and, presumably, wouldn’t be able to keep up with young and active children)? And what about a parent who might be in a wheelchair (plenty of returning veterans are in this situation) or who have some other activity-limiting condition such as heart problems, severe asthma, or lung issues?
The children had been in foster care for the past year. They’d been living with their mother but were removed from her house because she’d had a drug overdose and a mental breakdown (much better justification for removal than being obese). And the dad had a history of legal problems—most notably fighting in public.
In most cases like this, the children are put into foster care until the parents are able to regain control over their lives—the courts try to reunite families whenever possible. The decision to take children away from their biological parent(s) and put them up for adoption is a far more draconian—and infinitely more permanent—step.
And by all accounts, the dad has made major efforts to become a better parent. To start with, he’s lost 150 pounds.
So it comes down to this. Where do our private lives end and government intrusion begin? Will Trans Fat Police officers be stationed at grocery stores ready to seize children from parents with too much junk food in their carts? Will Exercise Police snatch kids from parents who don’t take at least 10,000 steps everyday? Or will it be the Education Police who will take children from parents who don’t make their kids do their homework?
I think we draw the line at physical or psychological harm. If a child is being abused, I have no problem with the authorities stepping in. If parents are doing drugs, getting drunk, or turning tricks, they should lose their kids—at least until they can demonstrate that they’re clean. But not being able to keep up with a 5-year old is not something to be punished.