From Obesity to Foster Care

When my children were young, I did worry about excessive intrusion on our family as regards our choices in parenting. Thankfully, the boys are close to grown and we escaped any of those kinds of worries.

So it was startling for me to read today about a family who’s children have been taken from them and placed in foster care because they didn’t do enough to offset their children’s obesity. What really makes this scary is this note – “The case was such an unusual one because the children had clearly had some very good parenting, as they were polite, bright, and engaging.”

I see so many obese people of all ages here in our rural Missouri environment. I have struggled with healthy weight issues all of my life, I was raised with a high awareness of this and have dieted my entire life with varying success. At the moment I am holding on (sometimes barely) to a decent stability in that regard. I know that it is important.

The case that prompted this blog occurred in the UK. Social services staff at West Sussex county council had told a family court judge about their concerns. The local authority had provided Fitbits (fitness trackers) and paid for gym membership for the family, who had also signed up to Weight Watchers. Months after family court proceedings began there had been no reduction in the children’s weight, and they had not provided recordings from their Fitbits or attended the Weight Watchers appointments consistently.

The judge said the children’s parents did not seem to understand the seriousness of concerns raised by social services staff and had failed to set boundaries and promote healthy eating and exercise. She said the children needed the chance to “learn ways of living more healthily” and to improve their health by losing weight. The judge said there were also concerns about poor home conditions and a lack of guidance on personal care.

“Everyone agrees that this is a very sad and unusual case, of a loving family, where the parents meet many of the basic needs of the children, but the local authority has been concerned that the parents are not meeting the children’s health needs, in that both children are severely overweight, and the parents have shown an inability to help the children manage this condition,” the judge remarked in her ruling.

Figures in 2014 disclosed that up to 74 morbidly obese children were estimated to have been taken into care over a five-year period across England, Wales and Scotland. Children over age 2 or teens whose BMI is greater than the 95th percentile are considered obese. BMI uses height and weight measurements to estimate body fat. Obese children at BMIs of 30, 35 and 40 are defined as class I, class II meaning severe or class III meaning morbidly obese. Class III obese children had a higher waist circumference, systolic blood pressure and fasting insulinaemia (an abnormally large concentration of insulin in the circulating blood) compared with less obese children.

So, I get it. But foster care ? Seems like an extreme solution. I wonder if the parents are also morbidly obese. If so, do we imprison such people as well ? Just saying.

Is It Really ?

One hears this a lot from people who want to adopt a baby – “I applaud you for your courageous choice to give your daughter a chance at a better future. There are so many women with infertility issues like myself who would love to adopt a child. Please keep me in your thoughts if you know of other women in your situation. I have a lot of love to give.”

One cannot really say if being adopted gives anyone a “better life”. Both of my parents were adopted. They both would have grown up with some degree of poverty had they remained with their original mothers. And the truth of the matter is, my dad still grew up with some degree of poverty. In fact, he actually experienced food insecurity and hunger as a child. We always had more food on our table at dinner than we could eat. My mom told me that was the reason why. And my dad was so obese as an adult, he relished his nickname Fat Pat.

I do appreciate his adoptive parents. My granny was hugely influential in my life. We often spent days and weekends with her. A word from her that was very serious about some issue had the power to change the direction I was traveling in. Having learned my parents more or less full background stories, I believe had it not been for my granny, my teenage mother who conceived me out of wedlock, would have been sent away as so many girls in the 1950s through 1970s were, to have and give me up. I believe my dad’s adoptive parents insisted he do the right thing and quit college and go to work, after quickly marrying my mother so I would be born legitimate. And my nuclear family experienced hardships but we knew we were loved, even though our parents were strangely detached, having had their own familial bonds broken before the age of one year.

And how about my mother ? Her dad was the vice president at a large bank in downtown El Paso Texas. Her mother was a socialite and charity do-gooder. She was also influential in my own life for different reasons than my granny. She modeled for us good manners and good taste in home decor and clothing. However, my mom – while wanting for nothing of a financial basis – struggle with her adoptive mother. My grandmother was always thin and trim (she would starve herself if necessary, her mother and sister were quite rotund) and my mom’s body type was never going to be that – big boned Scottish farm girl stock that she was. My grandmother also dangled her wealth as a carrot and a stick over my mom.

My mom’s father was very poor and her mother’s family was also poor. My grandmother lost my mom when she gave birth while separated from her lawfully married husband during a massive flood on the Mississippi River. Unable to contact him for support or reconciliation, Georgia Tann along with her enablers the Juvenile Court Judge Camille Kelley and the Porter-Leath Orphanage supervisor Georgia Robinson (to whom my grandmother turned for temporary care while she tried to get on her feet financially without family support) exploited her financially precarious situation and coerced her into surrendering my mom for adoption. She tried to undo this 4 days after signing the papers but Tann was not letting my mom loose as her soon to be adoptive mother was already on her way from Nogales Arizona by train to Memphis Tennessee to collect her. My grandmother had previously adopted a son from Tann.

One cannot actually say my mom had a “better” life either. The truth about adoption is – the child has a DIFFERENT life from the one they would have had with their original parent(s). Better is a subjective concept that adoptive parents like to believe in order to justify taking a child, due to their own infertility, from another woman. It honestly is that simple.

Plan B

It may seem strange to write about this but unplanned pregnancies are a leading cause of adoption.  Adoption results in often unconscious and definitely life-long trauma for the adoptee and for their mother from whom they are removed.  Ridding one’s self of the possibility quickly, results in less guilt and shame than an abortion, even when done by 3 mos gestation.  If definitely prevents the surrender of a baby to some stranger.

An interesting fact about this method is that it often fails obese women.  Weight matters in this regard.  This is an important consideration in the United States, where over 35% of adults are obese because obese women (with a body mass index, or BMI, of 30 or greater) became pregnant over 3 times more often than non-obese women when trying this method.

While the commercially marketed brand names are expensive and often kept in anti-theft cabinets, it is possible to obtain a generic.  I have read that with a coupon code from GoodRx the cost of a generic could be as low as $14.

Plan B is meant to delay or prevent ovulation. It does not “end the pregnancy”. Plan B is not an abortion pill.   It’s a heightened dose of birth control to prevent implantation. It’s not misoprostol or mifepristone.  So there is no danger of harming the fetus’s development, if a pregnancy develops after trying this.  Using this does slightly increase the risk of an ectopic pregnancy.  If you’re already pregnant, it won’t work; but it will basically force you to have a period, if you’re not pregnant.

If you’re on Medicaid, they have an online site and will mail it and birth control to your home for free monthly.  And at pharmacies, it is often found on the shelf right next to the pregnancy tests and near the condoms! Don’t be in denial about unprotected sex.  Believing “Oh it won’t happen to me, I’m invincible” could prove to be wrong and then it is too late for the easy precautions.  Girls under 18, be aware that many states require a prescription to buy it at a pharmacy, making it much less accessible but you can actually buy it on Amazon, of course.

Beware though if you live in a conservative, religious right state like my state of Missouri – you may get a judgmental/religious pharmacist. There are tons of stories of women being blocked by pharmacists from getting it – either lied to or just told no.  And parents in these conservatively religious regions often don’t believe in sex education and tell their children to just say “no” with predictable results.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Feeding With Love And Good Sense

My topic today started out being about foster parents who resent feeding their foster children.  Of course, not all foster parents are that way but it seems that some are.  It appears that some people foster solely as a source of extra income.

It is well known that foster children often have some very serious traumatic effects that cause them to display a variety of behaviors.  Picky eating has been linked with psychiatric problems, including anxiety and symptoms of depression.  The mental problems sometimes worsen as the picky eating becomes more severe.  That untouched plate and look of disgust on your child’s face at mealtime might be a sign.

My older son was eating Salmon at 18 mos of age.  This amazed my parents.  At the time, I had read a book by Ellyn Satter titled Child of Mine: Feeding with Love and Good Sense.  Because of what I read in this book, when a family friend made a separate meal for her daughter, I thought it wrong but kept my judgement to myself.  Satter advises – It is a parent’s job to put good quality food on the table.  It is the child’s job to eat.  And mostly I agree.

Except that along came my younger son.  I believe he has texture issues.  He also developed car sickness at only a few months of age, which we eventually treated with a preventive tincture of ginger and peppermint with definite success.  There is no way you can force this kid to eat anything he doesn’t want to.  He’ll simply throw up and we have so much experience with those outcomes in the car, we have no desire to cause more of them.

Even so, he is healthy and according to his pediatrician of normal weight.  It’s hard to tell with kids while they are growing up.  They bulk up and then shoot up.  I do my best to provide him with nutritious meals – even though some could be questioned by dietary purists.  And I do cook for him separately.

Even so, my kids are not traumatized.  I simply cannot understand any person willing to take on the challenges of children who have ended up in foster care and then take a hard-hearted attitude towards feeding them.

Related statements from a foster parent –

“When you get a child that comes to you and their family was on food assistance etc. – which I have nothing against but when they say ‘I don’t eat leftovers’, it really erks me. We had to use assistance many years ago and the amount they give you, was more than needed.  You could buy name brand everything and eat like kings.  I just said, ‘we don’t have that luxury, we have to pay for our food. So you’re going to have to get used to it.’ And its only maybe twice a week and definitely, I am not making something just for her.”

Some additional comments from a couple of foster parents to the above –

“We’re not personal chefs. Prepare them for the real world.”

“Foster kids eat what they get. I serve the same thing until they eat it. If they don’t like it, they can go to bed hungry.”

Personally, I do NOT believe ANY child needs to go to bed hungry, if it can be avoided.  Period.  In my family, no one is forced to eat leftovers but thankfully, my husband thinks they make a great, quick lunch.  One final note – this country has an obesity epidemic and the causes are multiple.  However, I do believe that allowing children to only eat what they feel like eating, teaches them to read their body signals.  In fact, in our household, only the main meal is served as a family.  The other times we eat, is when our hunger drives us to seek satisfaction.

Lacking Permanency

After I learned who my original grandparents were (both of my parents were adopted and died knowing effectively nothing about their own familial roots), I began to learn about the impacts of adoption.  I read a really good book on this subject – The Primal Wound by Nancy Newton Verrier (definitely highly recommended for anyone else who is interested in understanding).  I also joined a group about adoption that is all about facing the realities.  Member of the whole triad of original parents, adoptees and adoptive parents belong to this group and I have learned a lot about the issues from the diversity.

From letters written by my adoptive grandmother in the late 1930s to the Tennessee Children’s Home staff – Fanny Elrod and Georgia Tann – there are indications that my mom had been upset the whole time she was being taken by my adoptive grandmother by train from Memphis to Nogales Arizona as a 7 mos old infant and that she may have been drugged by a doctor upon arrival there to calm her down.

Though letters from my adoptive grandmother in the early years of my mom’s life indicate that she was over the moon happy with my mom as her adopted child, I know that my mom never felt she lived up to my grandmother’s high standards.  I understand this personally as she was a phenomenal woman and I had my own run-ins with her opinions about me that were deeply hurtful.

My grandmother grew up not far from me in Missouri.  Her mom was lazy by my grandmother’s accounts – only interested in her bible and not in her household – and both her mother and sister were fat (confirmed in photographs of the whole family together).  My grandmother maintained a very trim figure all her life to match the trim figures of her sisters-in-law and worked hard at that by denying herself fattening foods to maintain her figure.  She criticized me once in a public place quite loudly for taking a dinner roll and putting butter on it.  I didn’t even speak to her for a whole 24 hours I was so upset.

Adoptees do not feel special because someone chose to adopt them.  They always feel at risk of being rejected and abandoned all over again if they don’t live up to their adoptive parents’ expectations.  For that reason they become people pleasers as my own mom definitely was.  She was described very positively after she died by the people who knew her but I wonder now – at what price internally did she accomplish that high regard ?