Most parents only want to do the right thing and give their children a happy life. But when a child becomes overweight, or even obese, are they no longer doing the right thing? If not, should something be done? A mother in South Carolina has been charged with neglect (and put in jail) for allowing her 14-year old son, Alexander, to reach a dangerous weight of 555 pounds.
Officials say they have given Jerri Gray the chance to help her son and get him treatment, but she has not taken advantage of those opportunities. She says she doesn't have enough money for treatment. Jerri works multiple jobs to make ends meet, and says she doesn't have as much time as she'd like to prepare healthy meals for her son. She also says that sometimes she'd purchase fast food for him when she had to sleep between shifts.
Alex is now in the custody of the Department of Social Services. Jerri admits she's made mistakes. But she wants her son back, and the opportunity for them to learn together how to change their lives and get healthy. Should she be given that chance when her child's life is at risk because of his weight?
This story is heartbreaking to me for a number of reasons. I'm fortunate that I have the knowledge and tools to know what my children should and shouldn't be eating. I'm fortunate that I don't have to work multiple jobs to make ends meet, taking me away from them on a daily basis. But not everyone is so lucky. If you grew up in a home where fast food and high fat meals were the norm, you probably didn't learn anything different. It's easy to see how someone could get into a situation where they think they are taking good care of their child, but in reality their choices are doing more harm than good.
On the other hand, this child is not just 50 or even 100 pounds overweight. Alex's weight has reached a level that is very dangerous to his health. It's not clear exactly what officials did months ago to try and help Jerri before the situation reached this point. Was she given access to help? Was she given any tools to start changing his eating habits? Did she just choose not to follow through with it?
In my opinion, a 14-year old child needs his mother. Taking him away from the woman who loves and cares for him is not the solution. The solution is an intensive intervention with the two of them, giving them the education and resources they need to start turning things around. If someone is going to change their lifestyle, they need to learn how to establish new habits and behaviors. If they are given all of this and the mother still refuses to follow through, then I think that's a different story and more drastic measures need to be taken. But for now, I think they should be given the opportunity to change- together.
What do you think?
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