It is undisputable that everybody has a right to become a parent. On the same hand, children have a right to live with their parents and not become separated from them. But children also have a right to living conditions that help them achieve a healthy psychological and physical development in order to fulfill their potential. Therefore, every parent carries an obligation to ensure the realization of those rights by providing children with adequate care.
What separates good parenthood from bad is a discussion that needs more space but one thing is certain – children welfare is the most important factor in their upbringing. Although we cannot take away anybody’s right to become a parent, that right is not absolute and unconditional. A question arises whether or not we have a right to take away parental care under certain conditions. Considering child’s specifics and his position in the community, the responsibility for applying the rights and protection is on every adult person, especially on those who possess knowledge, understanding and possibility of action.
In cases when parents are unable to fulfill their parental obligations for certain reasons, state authorities and agencies have an obligation to help them perform their parental functions. Therefore, every parent has not only a natural but also a legal obligation to take care of their children appropriately. When a child’s welfare is at risk, the state must protect the child what sometimes include his removal from the family.
However, the decision about whether the child should remain in the risk family is one of the most complex that officials of protective services (social welfare and justice) must make. Due to complexity of individual assessments and many factors to be taken into account, it is not easy to standardize it. Such decisions go far beyond of enforcing law because they involve emotional connections of parents and children and traumatic consequences of separation. Decision makers themselves frequently face difficult moral dilemmas and stressful moments.
Hence, there is a strong ethical dimension here: when is it right to take a child away from a parent? Removing a child from his family as a radical measure is taken when the interests of a child are so in danger and when previous actions such as supervising parenthood showed inadequate in achieving desired effect. This measure is necessary in cases such as severe neglect and child abuse (physical, psychological, sexual or observation of violence between parents) as well as in cases of inability of parents to take care of children due to drug abuse or mental illness.
I totally agree that a state should take care of and protect its most vulnerable society members when parents are unable to do so. However, wherever there are chances that parents, with professional help, could take care of their children, a child should not be taken away. A child should be separated from his family only when all other measures failed and when separation is really necessary and in the best interest of the child in order to preserve his dignity as well as physical and personal integrity.
Supervision of parental care, effective and timely assistance and support to parents who are facing difficulties in raising children, prevention programs aimed at educating parents, improving parenting skills are an important element of preventing separation of children from their families. In the case of the eight year old Cleveland boy who was removed from his family and was placed in foster care because weighs more than 200 pounds after county case workers said his mother wasn’t doing enough to control his weight, I do not think that government officials acted properly.
Like I already explained, in certain circumstances, such as cases of genuine abuse and neglecting child, social workers should radically intervene and so should law enforcement. But are we really talking about something like that in this case? It is beyond doubt that this boy’s health is threatened, but was that really a result of mother’s severe negligence? I consider that in this case there are certain failures in child’s care and that parents definitely share responsibility for that but I do not think that this was a case of child abusing or gross neglecting.
State should definitely take measures and provide supervision in order to help mother and child in solving this problem but separation is not a solution. If we consider that a boy will have to undergo agonizing and complete weight reduction treatment, stress and trauma caused by separation will not make that treatment easier. This boy needs help, and so does the mother, but they also need each other and state should provide them help and not making things harder by standing between them.
Specifically, obese is a complex psychological and physical problem, one of the most difficult to treat and it requires engagement of a team of experts that will cooperate with family in order to make some major lifestyle modifications. Solving problems like these is often too difficult for parents themselves and a state should provide help long before considering possible removal of a child from its family. In cases of severely obese children I don’t think that parents are totally to blame.
Obesity is an epidemic in the United Sates and society as a whole including government is responsible. For parents in this environment, trying to feed their children healthy seems like swimming upstream. Children are exposed to the countless food advertisements, toys in fast-food kid’s meals. Unhealthy food is cheaper and there is a lack of nutrition education. Unfortunately, government policies are overwhelmingly directed toward promoting economic growth and it does not seem likely that, in the near future, would be willing to compromise economic growth in order to promote general welfare.
Just recently I read that Congress passed legislation that would protect the food industry’s ability to keep pizza and french fries on school lunch trays every day of the week. It seems hypocritical that government would advocate taking children away from parents for being overweight while at the same time seems more interested in protecting industry than children’s health and when tolerates promotion of unhealthy food. Roughly 2 million U. S. children are extremely obese. Are states going to move them all to foster care?
Before a trend of removing children from parents takes hold, state should use intervention programs to assist parents in dealing with this problem and more importantly work on problem prevention – to treat the cause, not only the symptoms. Although in some cases necessary and the only possible, measure of removal a child from its parents is justified only as a last resort, when the state has made all timely efforts to help the family in risk. Before taking away the child from his parents a state should make sure that it has done everything to prevent this radical measure in any possible way.