According to news sources, human-services authorities in Victoria have sought protection for extremely obese children on at least two occasions in 2012, arguing to children’s court magistrates that they would be unable to lose weight in their parents’ care. One case reportedly involved a pre-teen boy who weighed more than 240 pounds and a teenage girl with a 66½-inch waist that was greater than her height; she had apparently gained 66 pounds over 18 months.
The public is divided about whether weight management is an appropriate reason for removing children from their homes, and at least one obesity expert, Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute Associate Professor John Dixon, suggested that more cases like this can be expected. Dixon said that removal can be the best option in some cases, although he acknowledged that obesity “can be the result of a whole range of environmental issues, the food, the lack of transport, all sorts of things.” He also opined that obesity “also can be symptomatic of dysfunctional circumstances . . . where there’s problems; mental illness, siblings with disabilities, that really make family life for some of these children very complex indeed, and produce that rare circumstance where they may be better off out of home for a while.”
A spokesperson for the Victorian Department of Human Services reportedly indicated that obesity alone was not grounds for child protection workers to become involved with a family, agreeing that “obesity may be a symptom of other issues that could place a child at risk or harm that would warrant child-protection environment.” Area weight-management clinics reportedly lack sufficient resources, and referrals can remain on waiting lists for a year or longer. Dixon claimed that parental neglect is not usually a determinant of obesity in children, and he called for improvements to health services to address the problem. “We have very few services to manage children who are very big,” he said, and “[p]arents are often reluctant to go to the doctor or pediatrician . . . for fear they will be classified as being negligent or not looking after their children very well at all.” See The Age and ABC.net.au, July 12, 2012.