INTERVIEW: Child obesity epidemic - Should parents lose custody?

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – Is allowing your child to become obese a form of child abuse? A controversial article by a group of Harvard University researchers suggests yes.

The scientists suggest that removing children from a home could be justifiable if there is proof that the parents repeatedly refused to address the children's health problems, including severe obesity. The commentary appears in the journal of the American Medical Association.

Critics of the article say the researchers' theory is well-intentioned, but misguided. They say the obesity epidemic is a societal issue and blame should not be placed solely on parents. Here to talk about the controversial proposal is Jeannette Cordor. She's the head of Faces of Hope- a non-profit dedicated to curbing the childhood obesity epidemic.

RYAN: The first question I have for you is you are dealing with this problem on a ground level. Is it bigger than we even realize for those of us probably paying not that close of attention?

JEANNETTE: Absolutely, Ryan. It is bigger than anybody knows. As we are right here on Midlothian Turnpike, we deal with this issue every day from 3 to 19. Those are the children we serve, and it's not just one-dimensional. It's going to take all of us to address this issue, not just physicians, not just the media marketing to our children, it is everybody. It's behavior health, parenting, it's everybody's issue. And we must address it now.

RYAN: Now, addressing it, should we go as far as these researchers are suggesting and taking parents who are clearly neglecting their children's health away from them? Should the kids leave that situation? Should the government get involved to that extent?

JEANNETTE: I'm not against it, Ryan, only because I see it every day with our children. I am by far not against it, but what I would like to see happen first, as part of the article stated, is that everything is done within the home where the potential problem may have started. If we don't address the issue at home, taking the child out of the home, getting them the help that they need, then returning them back to the home, six months later, they will be back to the same condition. So we must address it in the home. We must start there first.

RYAN: Do you think that it is as big a problem as if a parent was taking drugs in front of their child, maybe second-hand smoke? Do you put obesity and feeding children wrong foods as big a problem as some of those serious things that would perhaps have a child taken out of someone's home?

JEANNETTE: Absolutely, absolutely. When you're dealing with children at least 3 to 19, everybody doesn't want to blame the parent, but it really is that. We have to education our parents and give them the tools that they need to solely affect the entire household. It becomes diabetes, it becomes a life-threatening issue as well as if you're on cigarettes, you're smoke cigarettes, you're on drugs - it becomes a life-threatening issue, so yes, I do put it into that same category. Absolutely.

RYAN: Okay. Thank you so much for your perspective. We appreciate you being here.

JEANNETTE: Thank you.

See the video above for more.

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