Fining the Parents of Fat Kids

Think of the childrenIn yet another stunningly horrific example of what can happen when the government involves itself in the weight of children, Gilberto Rodriguez, a member of the Puerto Rico Senate, is one of the sponsors of a bill that he claims will “improve children’s wellbeing and help parents make healthier choices” by fining parents for their kid’s body size.

“If, after six months, education officials determine that the child’s condition has not improved, a staffer can refer the case to child-family services authorities as one involving abuse or mistreatment.

“If after another six months the situation persists, the parents can be assessed up to $500 in fines.

“Six months after that, if the problem continues, the parents can be fined an additional $800.”

Even with all of the anti-fat BS that I’ve covered in this blog, there are still some things that I can’t believe I have to type, but here goes:

Fining parents for their kid’s body size is a terrible idea.

Let me count the ways:

1.  Even if being an “education official” qualified people to be involved in this mess, body size does not constitute abuse and it’s incredibly dangerous to suggest that it does. We end up with cases like that of Anamarie Regino who was torn from her home at 3 years old but failed to lose weight in foster care  She was returned to her family and it was determined that a genetic disorder that caused the weight gain.  Oddly, parents seem to find “We’re sorry, our bad” to be cold comfort for the pain and loss caused by having their kids ripped out of their home because of the way they look.

2.  As we discussed a couple of days ago, the research doesn’t support a focus on the weight of children and, in fact, the research shows that it is dangerous.

3.  What constitutes a fat kid?  Are we using BMI?  Percentile-based charts (in which case no matter what kids weight 5% of them will be in the top 5% by definition). Are “education officials” just eye-balling it? What about muscular kids? What about kids who are genetically bigger? What about kids who are getting ready for a growth spurt? Kids come in lots of different sizes for lots of different reasons and fining parents for that does not have the ring of responsible governing.

4.  It’s massively regressive – the less money a family has the more this will hurt their ability to take good care of their family.  In what world does having $1,300 less in the budget “improve children’s wellbeing and help parents make healthier choices”? Also, if parents have more than 1 fat kids are they fined for each one?

5.  While this is unlikely to make kids healthier, it is pretty much guaranteed to fuck up the relationship between parents and kids.  I remember getting yelled at for losing a $2 pair of tongs imagine if a kid is costing their parents $1,300 just for existing.  What kind of horror will be foisted upon kids by well meaning parents misled by the government? What would  desperate parents who can’t spare $1,300 put their kids through so that they can “make weight”?  What kind of unhealthy things will a kid who feels responsible for costing their parents $1,300 turn to?  How many relationships between parents and kids will be damaged by this?  How many will be irreparably damaged?  How will this affect families with a thin kid and a fat kid?  This bill is seems to be custom- designed to create dissonance in families and there is no “increased wellbeing” in that.

6.  What happens if stealing $1,300 from a family doesn’t magically make their kid thin? I think this is especially important since it’s the most likely outcome. Do we just keep fining them?  Are they going to put kids into foster care based on a ratio of weight and height?

This proposal is completely indefensible and I can only hope that it helps people see exactly how ridiculous the obesity hysteria OMGDEATFATZ epi-panic has become, and how much we need to change the way that we look at body size, health, and the government’s involvement in either, including and especially when it comes to kids.

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Published in: on February 20, 2015 at 8:02 am  Comments (22)  

22 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I was totally horrified by this when I first read about it. One of the scariest parts from one of the articles I read about it was “will fine parents of obese children and may even accuse them of abuse if the physical condition of their children does not improve.”

    So if the child doesn’t lose a significant amount of weight the parents can be accuse of child abuse. Ugh, I’m pretty sure STARVING your child so that it’s body eats itself thinner is more like child abuse. Having a fat kid is not child abuse. But you better believe, this this insane bill passes there WILL be child abuse going on by parents who can’t afford to be fined and are desperate to keep that from happening.

    Oh and the kicker “If passed, the money collected from the fines would be used to fund an anti-obesity initiative.” So, the money would go back into creating more fat-phobia, more stigma, and more abuse.

    It is truly terrifying that this bill is even up for debate.

    • We pay for our own trains to take us to neo-Auschwitz. 😦

  2. In what world does having $1,300 less in the budget “improve children’s wellbeing and help parents make healthier choices”?

    Well, I suspect they should just stop feeding their kids. Which is in no way abuse and ensures that the kids will grow up healthy in mind and body, because millenia of data from all over the world suggest that starvation stronly negatively correlates with ailments that come from living a long and comfortable life. *headdesk*

    • Yep! Let’s starve ’em healthy!

    • $1300 is about 4-5 months of groceries for a family of 3, not counting allergies and intolerances. This hefty fine will cut down food bought.

  3. So, like, who is going to pay for the damage (psychological, emotional) suffered by the child put through this ‘body size’ law?

    Hmmm. No one?

    Thought so.

    Why stop at obesity? Why not fine parents for kids with other conditions that parents have similar control over? This could be quite the gold mine here. We could charge families of children with cancer who don’t improve with treatment. Parents of kids with ADD would pay until their child overcomes the condition. Or if their child is too skinny we could charge them too. Dyslexic? Epilepsy? Mood disorders? Ring-worm? Failure to vaccinate? How about a fine for kids who do poorly in school? Hey, we could simply issue a kid tax on all children.

    Sure glad I didn’t vote for the guy who thought this up.

    • Don’t forget autistic kids. After all, we must just not be getting enough bleach enemas…

  4. As I’ve mentioned before, I was an unusually large baby; literally fat from birth. Of course my family was “concerned” because everyone told them I would die before I was ten if they couldn’t make me a proper, thin little girl. The good news is that one of my parents is a medical professional and has no emotional or social investment in thinness, so they only enrolled me in safe, rational weight loss interventions and the physical and psychological damage (from the Fat Camp, anyway) was minimal compared to stories I’ve heard from other fat kids.

    The “bad” news is that, as I probably don’t need to tell you, safe and rational weight loss interventions did not result in any weight loss. Because, you know, in spite of society’s mystifying collective decision to pretend otherwise and then live as if their lie is true, it’s well-documented safe and rational weight loss interventions don’t work. If you are fat as I am, the ONLY thing that will make you less fat is literal, non-hyperbolic starvation, and that only temporarily (assuming you don’t die). And those are the two outcomes we will start seeing if this bill passes: one one hand, loving parents not willing to risk their children’s health with underfeeding will enroll their child into safe and rational weight loss programs, and even though the charts say they’re doing everything “right,” the child will not lose weight and they will be fined, and fined again, and eventually have their children taken away from them. On the other hand, parents who ARE willing to risk their children’s health will starve them – that’s the only thing that “works” – and they will become very sick, possibly even die, and… heh… gain more weight back should they actually survive.

    Of course, there IS a third option. A terrible third option. Bariatric surgery. Those same parents who did “all the right things” and watched “all the right things” fail time and time again will become desperate as the government comes closer and closer to stealing their children from them. And who will sweep in to save the day (for a hefty price and a lifetime of health problems)? The bariatric surgery industry, who has lately been talked up as the “true cure” for “obesity” even as more and more people are willing to publically admit diet and exercise just don’t make fat people thin. Think of the $$$ that will flow to the folks at LapBand from frightened parents desperate to do *anything* to keep their children. Why, you can hear the checkbooks opening from here.

    They will be punishing good parents and rewarding abusive ones. *Cruelly* abusive ones. All because they don’t like to look at fat people and a few higher-ups in the diet and bariatric surgery industry need new swimming pools.

    This is evil.

    • “…in spite of society’s mystifying collective decision to pretend otherwise”

      I love the way you worded that, because it absolutely hits the nail on the head.

  5. Of all the horrifying contained in this idea (and there are more layers than your average onion), the one that struck me the most is the question of who decides when a child is “criminally fat”, and what the criteria will be.

    After all, I saw the video of little Charley the other day, condemned as OMGDEATHFATZ — apparently “obese” by some arcane BMI calculation that has no basis in reality. Would she be taken from her parents? Would the little girl that I know who is 120% of average on *both* height and weight, utterly proportional and on track to be tall like her daddy, be termed neglected because she’s just big for her age?

    It’s eerily reminiscent of the Salem Witch Trials. Let’s find the kids and parents guilty first, and if the punishment happens to reveal that it wasn’t their fault in the first place, well, oops. Gotta break a few eggs to make an omelet, right?

    That may well be the sickest thing I’ve ever heard, considering how many children are out there trapped in truly abusive homes. Especially having even the slightest understanding of what happens when children are taken from their parents by DCS and the risks children face in foster care. Just makes me literally sick to think about it.

  6. It’s getting to the point where all of this nauseates me and none if it surprises me.

  7. And what about the case where a six year-old DIED after being misdiagnosed as a type 2 diabetic, instead of a type 1 diabetic, because, oh yeah, she was deemed fat and “in need of diet and exercise?”

    http://www.villagevoice.com/2013-10-02/news/type-2-diabetes-misdiagnosis-kills-six-year-old-girl-dr-arlene-mercado-claudialee-gomez-nicanor/full/

    The family won a medical malpractice suit, in which the doctor was found 100% responsible. Somehow, I don’t imagine this brings them a lot of comfort. Especially when their daughter’s birthday or holidays come around.

    Obesity hysteria is KILLING people. Not just adults, but children, too. Now we also want to rip apart families? Put them in a financial situation that makes feeding their kids – at all, in some cases, let alone in a healthier way – even harder?

    This is the same fucked up, twisted logic that had my grandmother and aunt refusing to let me take dance, skating, swim or gymnastics lessons when I was deemed too fat. Yes, because let’s discourage the (not actually even, btw) fat girl from physical activity. This seems like the way to go!

    It’s illogical and counterproductive, to say the very least.

  8. I predict massive emigration from Puerto Rico. It’s cheaper than failed “safe” diets and bariatric surgery and fines because those things didn’t work, anyway.

    Of course, most people don’t realize those things don’t work, so only the smart ones will get out, at first. And then, the ones who are not abusive, and try very hard to be “safe,” will flee at the last minute before their children are snatched from them. Then there will be the desperate ones who “kidnap” their children from the foster homes and flee with them then. And finally, the non-abusive, naturally thin people will just leave in disgust, not to mention desperation because with half the population already gone, the infrastructure will be collapsing.

    That leaves the abusive parents willing to starve their children to stay in the mess that is left. I would say “works for me,” except there will probably be a FEW children surviving, and I don’t want them living in the resultant hell-hole. Just the abusive parents. So where’s the Pied Piper to save the children, when you need him?

    • The way you describe it all, it seems to be a cash grab by the gov’t. I wonder if their economy is currently in the sh!ts.

      • Well, Puerto Rico is an American protectorate, so YEAH.

    • I’d grab my kids and run if I were there. No kidding.

  9. So the body fascists are policing bodies of younger and younger people, to train them to hate themselves and to perpetuate the hatred and stigma fat people have to live under.

  10. I have a friend whose son has a very rare chromosomal disorder (Bardet-Biedl syndrome) which was initially diagnosed as autism. There’s are a zillion repercussions, developmental, physical, mental, of this disorder, and obesity, low muscle-mass, and Type-2 diabetes are some of them. My friend has devoted her life to working with her son, and despite his encroaching blindness and deafness at age 15, he is as happy and healthy as possible.

    For a long time, she felt guilty because he was fat. She took flack because he was fat. And, once he was finally diagnosed correctly, it turns out that he’s not at all on the fat side of the spectrum with his peers.

    What the heck happens to a kid like this if his parents are fined and he is eventually seized? There is no way he could understand more than that he was taken away from his mom because he’s fat, and it’s All His Fault.

    That would be some help, wouldn’t it?

    • Well, of course they’ll SAY there are exceptions, for real, verified medical reasons. But, don’t you know, the real, verified medical reasons for a person to be fat are so incredibly rare! “Everybody knows,” it’s just a one-in-a-million chance, and really, it’s all their heads, anyway, and if they would just exercise a teeny tiny bit of willpower, they could beat it and be thin, like everyone else.

      Sarcasm off.

      And the paperwork for that would be a Herculean task, in itself.

  11. This is so horrific. I can easily imagine parents trying so hard not to let this affect their child, struggling to pay the fines and therefore having less money with which to pay for things like healthy food and extra-curricular activities, and the kids getting wind of it and developing disordered eating out of a desperate sense of trying to help their family. I would have felt terribly guilty as a child if I’d known my weight meant my parents had to pay $$ to the government as punishment for what an awful child I was. I almost certainly would have turned to extreme starvation diets in an attempt to be a better child whose fat existence didn’t screw with my family’s finances.

    • Kids ain’t stupid, they can figure out what is going on, and like you might have done, “help out” with the finances.

      • When I was a kid, I went through a phase of brushing my teeth fifteen times a day (literally – I counted), just to avoid going to the dentist. I was fat, so therefore “had no willpower,” but let me tell you, I had a stubborn streak that could shock a badger.

        Yeah, a kid who gets it into his head that he should stop eating will starve himself to hospitalization, if you let him. And if it’s a choice between inflicting suffering on themselves, and putting themselves in a position to PAY someone else to inflict suffering on them (doctor’s visit with fat-shaming), they’ll do it, taking comfort in how “mature” and “responsible” they are being about it, because they are doing what needs to be done, without their parents having to force it, or suffer for their children’s lack of willpower. And the younger they are when they start this sort of thing, the more likely their stubborn streak will land them in the hospital or the grave.


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