In 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.
1. I’m trying to meet Beth Ditto for a possible collaboration – if you know her, I would love an introduction!
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