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Can a parent be charged with child abuse for allowing their child to become obese?

Original post made by Wondering on Jun 26, 2011

I was at a nail salon in Mountain View and saw a Caucasian daughter, mom, and grandma in pedicure chairs, all with the same body type and morbidly obese. The girl was about age 12 to 14 and some 250 pounds. They seemed to get along and treat the girl with respect. I had to bite my tongue on my way out as I passed the mom because I could not believe they allowed the girl to become so huge. Perhaps they believe it's a lost cause and the body type is in the genes? Can the child be takwn away from the parents? With extreme obesity there's always enablers. And yes, when my kids got chubby, we found ways for them to lose weight instead of taking them to sit for a pedicure.

Comments (42)

Posted by life span, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jun 26, 2011 at 9:43 pm

Taking the kid away would likely double her life span. But would that life be happy without her parents, who likely would die before the kid reached middle age?

Posted by Outside Observer, a resident of another community
on Jun 26, 2011 at 10:24 pm

I'm really surprised liberals have done nothing about obesity based on the health issues. They tax tobacco and alcohol, why not a tax on obesity?

There are numerous ways it could be done, directly, or indirectly.

Perhaps they fear they would lose votes if they took on obesity, or, given the demographics of obesity, be accused of being "racist".

Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 27, 2011 at 7:45 am

It is sad to see so many overweight children, regardless of their ethnicity. It is particularly sad to see how generational the attitudes that often cause it.

Children have to do fitness tests in school, but I have never seen the results of these tests in the same way I see the results of STAR tests. I think these fitness tests should (maybe they already do) should include weight and for those who are severely overweight the parents should be notified that something serious needs to change in probably the whole family's lifestyle. It would be a good idea for parents to get the result of these fitness tests also.

Posted by none of your business, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 27, 2011 at 9:01 am

You come across as smug rather than caring. This is none of your business. The explanation for the weight - have no idea, could be a medical condition or medicine they have to take or genetics or poor eating habits, but I'm sure school officials or the child's pediatrician, if worried about potential abuse, would have reported it.

Posted by Howard, a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Jun 27, 2011 at 11:02 am

This is really one of the most ridiculous posts I've come across but I really had a chuckle how Outside Observer blames it on liberals. Too funny! While Observer is totally off topic, he should be aware that out of the twenty fattest states in the country, Bush won nineteen of them in both 2000 and 2004. This can be referenced on line by entering: "Conservatives are Fat". by Eick.

Liberals are not opposed to letting conservatives keeping their red states fat and happy.

Posted by Wife of M.D., a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 27, 2011 at 2:04 pm

My husband went through a rotation in medical school with extremely obese children as patients. As OP mentioned, family and friends enable obese people. Sure, there is a genetic component to obesity and the child may never be slim, but the child can stay at a reasonable weight. The concern is that this child is going to face all sorts of problems by the mom having allowed her to reach her level of obesity at such an old age. She will face discrimination, gawking, bullying, depression, pain in the joints, limitations for seat size (rides, airline seats - will need to purchase two seats), diabetes, heart issues, etc. She also probably already has a taste for junk food and fattening foods and sweets that will be difficult to break.

Medications which cause obesity? Hogwash. Some medications do make one gain weight, but not extreme weight.

Why is there so much physical pain in this country? Obesity. It's simple - more weight is more stress on the joints.

The First Lady is trying to highlight obesity in one of her platforms.

I think in Britain, a child can be taken from parents for neglect if they are too obese but I am not sure about U.S.

The mom of the daughter is the one who needs to see a psychiatrist.

Posted by let's move, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jun 27, 2011 at 3:03 pm

Michelle Obama's "Let's Move" ( anti-child-obesity program is constantly being ridiculed to conservatives. Conservatives think the government should not be educating parents on how to raise their children.

Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on Jun 27, 2011 at 3:35 pm

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

I cannot believe this!

Posted by a mother, a resident of Menlo Park
on Jun 27, 2011 at 5:00 pm

as a parent of a polycystic daughter with another serious endocrine disease and herself suffering from a serious thyroid condition all I want to say is " it's none of anybody's business why or how someone becomes heavy or obese. I don't go about criticizing your lack of thinking skills or those who are less educated than my daughter or who can't climb mountains as I can. If you go through life thinking that because you are thin others deserve your scorn and judgment I would say you have little accomplished.

Posted by abusive, a resident of Palo Verde
on Jun 27, 2011 at 7:25 pm

Anyone forcing anyone doing or not doing anything against their free will is abusive and should be shamed by his behavior..

Posted by Outside Observer, a resident of another community
on Jun 27, 2011 at 7:54 pm


"I cannot believe this!"

What's so difficult to believe? If I recall, you posted on the stolen sunday paper and dog poop thread, is this really so different?

Stolen papers, dog poop and other people's obese children are, of course, the critical issues for many, many Palo Altans.

Posted by abusive, a resident of Palo Verde
on Jun 27, 2011 at 8:40 pm

Palo altans do not need outsider¡®s opinion

Posted by Mary , a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 27, 2011 at 10:32 pm

Can't we all just get along? Your all-encompassing judgement of others (whom you don't even know) is what is wrong with our society. Gosh, you must feel so superior being thin....

Posted by Parent, a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 27, 2011 at 10:45 pm

It is sad to see an obese child and it makes you wonder at what point did this get out of control. How come no one intervened? A doctor? A teacher? A concerned family member? But if this is considered abusive then so are many risky behaviors by parents: smoking in the house, failing to childproof the home, driving kids around in a car that is poorly maintained. All put the kids health and safety at risk. But who should have the authority to judge these situations and where would they draw the line?

Posted by abusive, a resident of Palo Verde
on Jun 27, 2011 at 11:01 pm

Privacy folks£¬please

Posted by Wife of M.D., a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 27, 2011 at 11:49 pm

A thyroid condition in a child? Not common, but possible. So there are three generations of thyroid conditions in the pedicure customers' lineage? Besides, thyroid conditions are treatable and patients can lose weight once the medicine has stabilized the situation.

What is glaringly obvious is that this child will have lifelong problems due to her mom's teachings and lack of control. It IS basically abuse of a child. Mental and physical abuse can be reported but obesity cannot. I'm sure the doctor has told the family but one can only lead a horse to water. How can anyone actually intervene unless the family can be legally charged with abuse or neglect?

Yes, the health and safety of children can be put at risk through poor parenting, but then the child grows up and leaves home. Being obese will affect this daughter for the rest of her life.

And yes, obesity of others DOES affect the rest of us. Health costs are already out of control. Obese people have more health issues.

Posted by abusive, a resident of Palo Verde
on Jun 28, 2011 at 12:01 am

You are aiming at wrong person£¬you should aim at our poor fast food industry and culture.The family is nice enough not suing them.

Posted by Dem, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 28, 2011 at 12:18 am

@let's move: Are you serious? Conservatives are always telling people how to live - pro-life, religion, abstinence, to name a few.

Posted by help your neighbors, a resident of Professorville
on Jun 28, 2011 at 1:03 am

Obesity is a disease, with complicated psychophysical dynamics. In fact, there are good studies showing that Obesity is "catching" - meaning that individuals tend to migrate towards bearing more weight if they live with individuals who weigh considerably more than themselves. We need to treat obesity as a disease, and not treat those who are obese with derision. That's just not right.

That said, we also need to go right after the commercial food sector, and fast food sector; these companies are literally killing our kids and going to cause our country to go bankrupt with medical outlays. For instance, diabetes has doubled over the last 15-20 years, worldwide. Almost 350 million people are diabetic! This is tragic, and unnecessary.

Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on Jun 28, 2011 at 4:19 am

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

"Dog walking" is a deliberate decision. Obesity is a consequence of many deliberate life choices. "Dog walking" effects others directly, obesity, indirectly.

Posted by Emily, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 28, 2011 at 8:10 am

This is the the most ridiculous post I have ever read. I have to pinch myself to believe I am actually reading the above posts. Yikes - I hope I don't know ANY of you personally!

Posted by a mother, a resident of Menlo Park
on Jun 28, 2011 at 8:53 am

You certainly aren't aware of medical developments otherwise you wouldn't post as you did. But you are very aware of sticking your nose where it's NONE of your business. Wife of MD you don't get medical certification by osmosis. Wondering should know of a case in the UK where the child was taken from the parents, put in a hospital whereby his weight didn't change despite the diet. A medical condition was diagnosed but by then the child had been traumatized enough. My first child was born 6lb 1 oz, the second almost 10 pounds, I stayed the same weight. But the main point is that I'm sure Wondering and wife of MD have a lot of "features" and behaviors that can be actionable as far as child rearing, one of which is teaching by example to point to other people , single them for "inspection" and recite their "flaws". As we know being thin is really not about being moral, not even healthy as some of the above posters demonstrate. Get off my child's plate and get on YOUR life, nosy parker.

Posted by Nayeli, a resident of Midtown
on Jun 28, 2011 at 9:02 am

Even if a child is obese, I don't think that the child should be "removed" from the parents or charged with child abuse. However, I do believe that there is a strong correlation between poverty/welfare and obesity. I believe that recipients of taxpayer assistance should be more readily prevented from obtaining junk food while they are recipients of assistance.

Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 28, 2011 at 9:10 am

Childhood obesity is rampant in the US. Of course there are exceptions, but generally speaking lifestyle choices is the main reason.

As individuals there is probably nothing we can or should do in a situation where we see this in someone other than our own family. But as a society, we must question what can and should be done. I don't think it is a good idea ever to take a child away from loving parents, but there must be a stage where "something must be done".

What that "something" should be is a tricky question.

Posted by Sarah, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 28, 2011 at 10:15 am

We always see kids eating french fries and soda in fast food chain. May we suggest to double/triple tax on unhealthy food and drink.

Posted by Parent, a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 28, 2011 at 11:00 am

Emily - I am sure none of us would ever get to know you even if we were lying in the street in front of you bleeding out of our ears. This post (and several of the messages above) may not be phrased in the most politically correct terms but it comes from a place of concern. A person actually took a moment to stop thinking about herself (and it a temple of narcissism and selfishness - the foot salon) to ponder the predicament of a total stranger. Sadly a very rare event these days. I'd prefer a society with a few more nosy busybodies over one where everyone walks around like a self-absorbed drone with ear phones on and eyes fixed to a touchscreen device.

Posted by dogwalker, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 28, 2011 at 11:31 am

Gee whiz, wouldn't the answer to all these issues (and a few others) be to license people to have children . . . If you don't pass the test, it's a compulsory abortion for you, or non-tamperable birth control.
C'mon guys, we've got other, more critical issues to address! Childhood obesity is not pretty or healthy, but what's next: Asking children if they're "regular" every morning at school???

Posted by Conservative means..., a resident of Meadow Park
on Jun 28, 2011 at 1:00 pm

Live and let live. As long as I am not affected by the choices of that family ( paying out of my pocket for their food, their medical care, their EBT covered pedicures....) then it is none of my business how they live.

And that is what Conservative and let live.

Posted by sandy, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 29, 2011 at 8:23 am

This must be a joke by Palo Alto online to see how many people in Palo Alto have the time to discuss three over weight people in Mountian View. You people need to get a life!!

Posted by jb, a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Jun 29, 2011 at 10:18 am

Oh, dear, dear, Sandy from the other neighborhood. People don't lose time for discussion just because the topic is obesity, instead of streets and highways, tax, gun laws, or schools.

As to the obesity epidemic, what many don't understand is that your neighbor's obesity and related health problems are pushing up your insurance premiums.

On the other hand, there are many forces that are reinforcing the obesity epidemic who are not even in the dining business. Some of the most cutting-edge motivational research in psychology and neurology is being paid for by the advertising industry.

I now see many television ads being populated by obese customers and business people. We identify with the people who resemble us, and we are more likely to choose services and products that those people choose. In Willets I saw obese realtors selling and renting to obese clients on the television in Burger KIng.

Posted by a mother, a resident of Menlo Park
on Jun 29, 2011 at 12:16 pm

oh dear, oh dear, the SUV you needlessly drive is more dangerous to the country (oil imports from unstable countries not to speak about the carbon monoxide we have to consume because of you) than the tiny minority that is obese. And what is obese? it's not overweight and it's not not being size 10. As a recent study showed slightly overweight people have better health and higher life expectancy than the thiner or obese. But to direct a forum to single out the small percentage of the population that's obese and to speculate on causes (too much inexpensive food because affordability? illness? failure of regulatory cognitive systems? etc....)!!! you need to be very judgmental about something that's none of your business and not have anything else in your life that's sufficiently interesting... Btw, are do you still have a lawn consuming our water?

Holier than thou?
Have another thinking coming.

Posted by Pleeaseee, a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Jun 29, 2011 at 6:28 pm

OMG! Yes, you all need to get a life. I for one don't have time to get regular pedicures like many women in PA, let alone worry about someone else's weight problem. I agree that obesity and the food industry in this country need to be addressed, but not at this level. It's very busy to pass judgment on others. I suggest next time you are at the salon, try having an actual conversation with those around you rather than give them your snobish, I'm thin and better than you judgment. If you had done that, you could probably have learned something about them that may have explained their lack of self control.

I know of a 10-year-old whose weight is likely on the obese level. She became that way after her father died suddenly in a car crash. Who are you to judge their obesity and parenting skills? You don't know anything about them to assume they're mistreating the child.

I also picked up on your description of them as "Caucasian". Why did you even feel it was necessary to mention that? Because you think Asians don't get obese? Or that African-Americans, Tiogans, Hispanics, etc, are the ones that are usually obese? Or that Caucasians are somehow too superior to be obese but when you see one you think their obese children should be taken away from them?

Pleaaseee... Do yourself a favor and spend your time more productively rather than judging others you don't even know.

Posted by abusive, a resident of Palo Verde
on Jun 29, 2011 at 6:47 pm

Right now I am traveling in Asia£¬my family is really sticking out because I have two big kids(BOTH ARE NOT FAT AND LOOK AVERAGE IN Us).It is certainly the food that we consume everyday that cause this problem,everyone asked them what they ate and they seldom ate fast food in Us.Everything including vegi or meat here are smaller in shape and delicous than in us.We have MacDanold here,but tastes much better than in us.Wondering if the general food enviroment cause this problem.There are all kinds of delious vegi,a lot of variety for us to choose from,US should plant those vegi for our kids.

Posted by Outside Observer, a resident of another community
on Jun 29, 2011 at 7:39 pm


Good to hear you are getting an education in your Asian travels. You may find my opinions not so unacceptable as a result.

Posted by a mother, a resident of Menlo Park
on Jun 29, 2011 at 9:27 pm

Of course, don't we all know that being fine-boned and petite or Buddha like, broad hip boned or tall are the result of poor parenting and eating too little or too much. Pleeaseee, gets it right.
This forum is abusive and should be shut down.

To the MD wife: I'm hoping that you are not quoting your physician husband when you doubt of generations with the same problem. As one in whose family there is serious thyroid and endocrine disease with devastating consequences I expect physicians to be alert to such possibilities. We cheerfully submit to test after test and and have our lives constrained by disease. Our problems do make us miserable (we try not to) but people like you do. Skip the smugness and try t speak about only about what you know.

Posted by Unbelievable, a resident of Professorville
on Jun 29, 2011 at 9:53 pm

Argh. I don't know which I dislike more - ultra-left PA residents who try to force their pseudo-righteousness on my life and my choices, or ultra-right tea-partiers who try to force their religious hypocrisy on my life and my choices. You're all the same.

So the kid is fat? Yes - it's terrible but how is that different from letting your daughter at Gunn have sex with random boys and drink and do drugs? Or pressuring your kid so much that they walk in front of Caltrain? Are you really better parents than the lady you are all judging? Let those without sin....

Posted by abusive, a resident of Palo Verde
on Jun 29, 2011 at 10:10 pm

American are meat eaters£¬ which is very offensive to Buddha¡£

Posted by Mom , a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 30, 2011 at 1:06 am

There is an article in the June 29 Menlo Park Patch online claiming that obesity begins in the womb and that environment has more impact on obesity than genetics.

If a parent hits their child is in public, someone likely will report it to Child Protection Services, while it may have been an isolated incident or occur rarely in the family. However, obese children are being fed too much food each day and don't get enough exercise. Therefore, it should be considered child abuse because a parents' most important duty is to feed their child, not stuff them until they are unhealthy, thus inviting a host of health and psychological issues to their child. Teaching a child to have a palate for butter, fried foods, junk food, cream sauces, cheese, sweets - how is a child going to kick the habit after growing up with those foods? It's so unfair to the child.

How many of us don't overeat? We all do! Eating healthy doesn't have to be carrot sticks & dull chicken breasts. Even minor adjustments like skipping the whipped cream on the Starbuck's, drinking water instead of fructose liquids or juices, limiting portions to when one feels full, cutting back the next day if you eat too much the day before, eating dessert only occasionally will make a difference.

Posted by palo alto mom, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 30, 2011 at 8:50 am

Having daily PE in school (in elementary school I think the kids get 2 30 minutes sessions a week, in 6th 2 45 minute sessions and 9th and 10th, 4 45 minutes sessions) would help this problem, as would PE that was fun and designed to teach you skills/sports you will use thru your life (running laps around a lumpy field is exercise, but probably not one you will continue...)

There are weight loss programs for overweight kids, but they cost 3-4 THOUSAND dollars, not something many parents can afford.

The price of food is a big issue also, fresh fruit is hugely more expensive than a McDonalds burger - something is definitely wrong with our food subsidy system...

Posted by Perspective, a resident of Meadow Park
on Jun 30, 2011 at 11:19 am

To unbelievable who said"Argh. I don't know which I dislike more - ultra-left PA residents who try to force their pseudo-righteousness on my life and my choices, or ultra-right tea-partiers who try to force their religious hypocrisy on my life and my choices. You're all the same."

No...there is a difference between "preaching" or "persuading" and 1) bringing down laws on you to force compliance and 2) taking your money to support their beliefs.

The left is far, far more dangerous...tyrants versus believers who wish to persuade.

Posted by Perspective, a resident of Meadow Park
on Jun 30, 2011 at 11:34 am

BTW: To "Unbelievable"..please note from this thread which ones are talking about taking away kids from parents for "abuse or neglect", forcing taxpayer paid PE for kids, bringing in the implication of "bad" food places ( and we all know what leftists want to do with "bad" companies like Walmart, McDonalds etc), discussing "food environment" ( gonna have to fix that!!!), bringing in "the government" ( again, out of your wallet) to "educate" parents ( doesn't that send chills of fear down your spine if you know anything about government "education" around the world in the last 100 years?)..

Trust me...I would rather be with ultra-right teapartier religious "hypocrites" who understand that they must leave me and my wallet alone, than with "do gooder" leftists hell-bent on "educating", "regulating" or "controlling" anything in my life..with my money to boot!

This is a very scary thread..isn't it? But no surprise to us who have lived in the belly of the beast for so many years.

Posted by tub-oh-lard, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 30, 2011 at 2:52 pm

As a woman of size (i.e. FATSO) with thin kids, may I suggest the following article? Let's not make our kids fat to make ourselves appear slimmer ladies -- doesn't fool anyone and we set up our children for a lifetime of health and emotional problems.

Web Link

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