Monday, 12 September 2011

Government-mandated weight. The inevitable consequence.

[trigger warning]

Unfortunately, I'm not at all surprised that this has happened. A UK Council is taking steps to have four of a family's seven children forcibly adopted (or fostered without contact).

Why? Because the children are fat, and have continued being fat against the local government's demands. Clearly the solution is to take them away from their parents - and perhaps away from each other, too - in the hope that the massive added stress will cause weight loss.

According to all the press reports, the family have "faced no accusations of deliberate abuse or cruelty". Their solicitor has previously stated that "obesity was the main reason for the children being taken from their parents".

The rather flawed research on "obesity" is a contributing cause, but this goes way beyond that. I'm unimpressed with the government's research on "obesity" in children. But, even if that research is accepted at face value, the only detectable effects of "obesity" in children are "low self-esteem and behavioural problems" and a greater chance of being "obese" in later life.

On the basis of that research - even accepting that research as high quality and accurate, which I don't - there is absolutely no cause for intervention in this case. Either:

  1. Weight is largely not under a person's control. In this case, adoption won't change their weight. But it probably will harm their psychological state, especially since there's no reason to do it. Despite this stance being supported by the scientific literature, "everyone knows" means that more likely the council believe option 2...
  2. Weight is entirely under a person's control. In this case, the effects of being heavy at their age are comparable to the effects of being adopted. There being no evidence of abuse or cruelty, the only effects are psychological - which must be compared with the psychological harm of adoption, including the effects on their older siblings. The children, when they get to adulthood, can then "choose to be thin" and suffer no long-term effects.

In either case, there's no reason to forcibly remove them from their family. Which should be obvious.

The only case where it isn't obvious is where you believe that "obesity" is basically an evil zombie cult. Fat people will exist near you and brainwash you into being fat. It's therefore imperative to get those children who could be un-brainwashed away from their family as soon as possible. Accepting that premise, Dundee Council's actions seem reasonable.

It's also not impossible that the Council's actions have been completely misreported. With multiple news entries several years apart, a verifiable trail in public record for at least some of the events, and several different news organisations covering this in different ways, though, that seems less likely. The Council hasn't denied any of it - merely issued a vague statement that "The council always acts in the best interests of children, with their welfare and safety in mind." which seems to be the well-known PR tactic of "lying outrageously" rather than a severely misreported case.

Big Fat Blog has contact details for four senior Council officers. I've sent them the following message.

Dear Sirs,

The recent news that Dundee Council is planning to place four children from a family of seven to either be adopted or fostered without contact, for the sole reason that they are heavier than the Council approves of, and in the absence of any deliberate abuse or cruelty by their parents, are, if accurate, extremely disturbing.

I hope that if the press reports are accurate you will be reconsidering this decision and the policies which led to it immediately, as it seems to me to be a strong infringement of the family's rights, and not in the interests of any of their seven children.

I realise that you are unable to comment on the details of any individual case for the family's privacy, and so therefore I am confining my questions to general Council policy. If the reporting is inaccurate, then your policies should provide sufficient evidence of this without the need to discuss this specific case.

1) Under what circumstances, if any, does the Council take the weight of a parent or child into account when deciding what interventions are necessary?

2) Under what circumstances, if any, would the Council require an individual to alter their weight?

3) If there are any circumstances as described in my first two questions, could you explain the reasoning behind these policies, and provide me with any research used in developing these policies.

Thank you

Since I don't live anywhere near Dundee, which is itself in a different legal and administrative jurisdiction to my own, I doubt I'll get a reply.