March 13, 2017 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization
The latest scandal of the Nanny State comes to us from Australia where the Education Department has issued a ruling that a child’s excessive weight constitutes a “child protection issue.” (Daily Mail, 3/8/17) That means that anyone associated with a school, from teachers to administrators to janitors and groundskeepers, are now required to report to child protective authorities any child whose weight impacts “normal physical, social or emotional functioning.”
I read that to mean that, if a child’s weight means she can’t get a date to the prom or isn’t selected for the soccer team, then her social functioning is impaired and it’s time for the state to step in.
Needless to say, the new rule has been treated with skepticism and alarm in many quarters.
Some doctors have slammed the Education Department decision as ‘social engineering,’ and parents should be able to decide what their children eat.
And of course the school system wasted no time in providing an example of how absurd the results of the rule can be.
Last month, a South Australian mother was left mortified after her daughter’s pre-school sent her a scolding note after she packed a chocolate slice in the three-year-old’s lunchbox.
‘Your child has chocolate slice from the red food category today,’ the letter read.
‘Please choose healthier options for Kindy.’
Meanwhile, the backlash against the Nanny State’s new intrusion into family life has prompted its own backlash by one Rachel Corbett (Daily Telegraph, 3/10/17). Her piece’s headline alone – “Who Cares if it’s a Nanny State? If Kids are Suffering, We Must Step In” – demonstrates clearly that she fails to grasp the basic issues of the new rule.
From that it seems apparent that Corbett knows little or nothing about the history of the state “stepping in” to family life, not because kids are suffering, but on the pretext that they are or might be. Corbett takes a breezy and ill-informed attitude about what state intervention in family life can mean.
Sure, it’s probably a step too far to have Child Services rappel through your kitchen window to wrestle little Jimmy away from his coco pops…
Too bad that’s the extent of her understanding of the opposition to ever-greater intrusion by state actors into parental decisions. If she’d done even a brief Google search, she’d have uncovered countless cases in which the state – that in her understanding would never, never overreach – has abused children and families all in the name of child protection. Does she know about the lawsuits filed – and won – by parents whose kids were taken for no legitimate reason? Does she know about the lies told under oath by CPS agents, the “evidence” entirely fabricated? Has she heard about the gratuitous abuse meted out by caseworkers against parents who did nothing worse than allow their kids to walk home from school or play in a nearby park?
She knows none of that because she made no effort to find out. For Corbett, the state, in the form of “child protective” caseworkers, would never overreach, never be motivated by the money offered by federal governments to intervene in family life.
What also never occurs to her is perhaps the core of the matter – that just because a child is in some distress doesn’t mean that the state has something better to offer. As an Arkansas state senator wrote recently, “First do no harm.” It is all too easy to look at a child whose home life may be less than good and decide to take action. But if the “cure” available to CPS is actually worse than the disease, then the medication should be withheld. It’s a lesson too seldom learned by child protective agencies.
And, as at least one study has demonstrated, what CPS has to offer – foster care – is in fact worse than parental care, even when the parents are somewhat abusive or neglectful. Indeed, comparisons of parental care and foster care show a gross disparity between the two on the all-important matter of children’s well-being. Put simply, children are far more likely to be abused physically or sexually in foster care than they are in parental care. Add to that the terrible trauma of being wrenched from the only home they’ve ever known and the Arkansas senator’s exhortation should become Lesson One in how to be a CPS caseworker.
But for Rachel Corbett, all of that is so much darkness, utterly unknown. She has no idea that the state must proceed with the utmost caution and deliberation when deciding whether to intervene in parents’ raising of their child. Once it does, there’s no going back, no salving the wound inflicted on the child who’s supposed to be helped.
That’s why overweight kids should be treated by a doctor and their parents informed about good diets and exercise. But an ever-expanding “definition” of what constitutes a “child protection issue” threatens children’s welfare more than it protects it.
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