Is It a Crime to Raise a Morbidly Obese Child?
Meet Jerri Gray. On the surface, she's just your average single mother. She works as much as she can to provide for her child, a boy named Alexander Draper. Sometimes, she works two or three jobs at a time in order to make ends meet. There are thousands of single moms out there just like her, doing the best they can to get by. But Jerri's case is just a little different.
Alexander is an obese child. And by obese, I mean morbidly obese. At 14 years old, he weighed a whopping 555 pounds. Her excuse was that she had to work a lot in order to provide for him, which led to eating mostly fast food all the time. But does that explain or excuse her son being the size of a baby killer whale?
According to the South Carolina government, the answer was no. Alex was going to be forcibly removed from his mother. Her response was to become a fugitive. She fled to Maryland with her son, where she was eventually found, arrested, and charged with child neglect -- a felony which could land her in prison for ten years. She was released on bail, and lost custody of her son.
After Alex was taken away from her he was placed with a family member. Since living with his aunt, he has lost 300 pounds.
Another mom, Jennifer, was recently on the Dr. Phil show with her four-year-old son, Grayson. He weighs 115 pounds. Jennifer admitted that she overfed him intentionally because it made her feel "nurturing."
Parents like Jerri and Jennifer are hardly a rarity, as evidenced by the skyrocketing rates of childhood obesity across America and the world. And in response there are more and more calls for these children to be taken away from their parents, and for charges of child abuse or neglect to follow. But is this really a good idea? After all, having a fat kid has never before been a case of child abuse. But morbid obesity, such as the cases of Alex and Grayson, is different. These kids, and children like them, will suffer lifelong medical problems because of their obesity. So is it child abuse or not, and do their parents deserve to lose custody? According to both Jerri and Jennifer, their kids were fat, but not unhealthy. Is that true? How bad is it to be an overweight kid, anyways?
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