During the past decade, the British government has adopted an interventionist stance towards the management of family life. It continually lectures mothers and fathers about how to bring up their children and it constantly criticizes parents for behaving in ways that run counter to the ethos of expert-approved child rearing. The government does not simply advise or provide information, it is also in the business of saving children from their parents.
In early November a six-year-old boy from Derby was taken into care by social workers for being overweight. This is the first time that obesity has been listed by social workers as one of the reasons for taking a child away from its family. But behind the scenes more and more families are targeted by social services. Last month it was reported that seven obese children have been put into care and that obesity was a factor in at least 20 child protection cases last year.
In recent years public officials and child protection experts have taken upon themselves to police the weight of youngsters. Many of them take the view that parents who allow their children to become overweight or obese are actually guilty of child abuse. Back in February 2007, when two men in Cambridgeshire were convicted of causing unnecessary suffering by allowing their dog to become obese, child protection entrepreneurs responded by inviting the state to react the same way to abusive parents. “We wouldn’t treat a dog this way,” argued Tam Fry of the Child Growth Foundation before stating that since child obesity is a form of abuse, parents should be held to account. Dr. Tom Solomon, a doctor at Royal Liverpool University Hospital, pointed out that since the state punishes parents who do not send their children to school, why not penalize them for making their kids fat?