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UK Study: kids who are put into foster care tend to get heavier

This study isn't new, but it certainly gives good evidence that putting fat children into foster care isn't going to make them thinner.

From the journal Child: care, health and development November 2008;34(6):710-2.
Obesity in looked after children: is foster care protective from the dangers of obesity?
by SC Hadfield and PM Preece.

Unfortunately, the full article does not seem to be available for free online. However, here's the abstract:

Obesity in all age groups of children has become an increasing concern in recent years. Children looked after by the Local Authority (LA) should be protected from health problems while being accommodated. These studies assess the effect on weight of looked after children (LAC) in the care of a Midlands County Council. They assess the frequency of obesity or overweight problems in looked after children following receipt into care and review changes in body mass index (BMI) while in the care of the LA.

The height and weight measurements of all 106 children who had statutory health assessments while in the care of the LA between 1 January 2004 and 30 December 2004 were used to calculate their BMI. The data were plotted onto standard Growth Foundation charts and the International Obesity Task Force Paediatric cut-offs were determined to distinguish overweight and obese children and young people. The date that the child had come into the care system and the number of moves of placement was obtained for each child from the social care. This was related to the total group and the overweight group of looked after children.

Looked after children are more likely to be overweight and obese compared with standard norms, and there are a number of children (35%) whose BMI increases once in care.

Looked after care did not protect a child from the national problem of increasing weight gain and obesity.

Contrary to the common assumption, the families of fat kids may tend to be better at helping them learn to manage their eating and activity than a family who isn't used to having to worry about it. After all, the tendency to put on weight is highly heritable, and adults who have had to deal with it are likely to be more knowledgeable about how to mitigate it. And, of course, stress tends to cause weight gain (maybe even independent of emotional eating) and it's hard to imagine a worse stressor for a kid than being taken away from their family.

It's a small study, but the results don't surprise me.
Good ammunition for debates with people who think this kind of thing is helpful...

The perfect body-positive gift | Two Whole Cakes - How to Stop Dieting and Learn to Love Your Body

vesta44's picture
December 12th, 2011 | Link | This doesn't surprise me at

This doesn't surprise me at all. What it does tell me is that if the government insists on taking fat kids away from their parents just because the kids are fat, the government is not only going to have to pay for foster care, they're also going to have to spend extra dollars educating foster parents on how to turn those fat kids into thin kids - diet and exercise plans, personal trainers when those plans don't work, etc. Considering that social services are overwhelmed now with kids who are really being abused, and there aren't enough social workers to see to all of those kids, there aren't enough foster homes for all of those kids - do they really have the time and money to take on fat kids too? Especially when there's no proven, safe way to make fat kids permanently thin? We spend 60 billion dollars a year trying to make fat adults thin and it doesn't work, what makes them think they're going to succeed any better with kids? All they're doing is setting them up for a lifetime of eating disorders, health issues, and mental health issues - that's so much better than being fat (/sarcasm). If a kid isn't broke, that kid doesn't need fixing, and the government needs to redefine its definition of "broke" - and fat isn't in that definition, not for kids or adults.

WLS - Sorry, not my preferred way of dying. *glares at doctor recommending it*

DeeLeigh's picture
December 12th, 2011 | Link | Agreed. Also, who's to say

Agreed. Also, who's to say that the kids aren't already physically active and eating a healthy diet? Some people are going to think that's impossible, but I know from my own experience that it isn't.

loniemc December 12th, 2011 | Link | And, all these attempts to

And, all these attempts to make kids thin will probably make them even fatter in the end as well as making them have unhealthy relationships with food and exercise. sigh.

rebelle December 12th, 2011 | Link | Well, you know, we grown-up

Well, you know, we grown-up fatties are set in our evil ways, haha. Perhaps they feel as though they can overlook the facts and at least one study showing that a child's weight has more to do with genes than with home environment - Gina Kolata discusses one such study in her book, Rethinking Thin, that followed adopted children and also kept track of their bio families. The result: no matter the eating and exercise habits taught in the adopted home, the adoptees' weight fell more in line with that of their bio families.

richie79's picture
December 13th, 2011 | Link | Agreed. There is already

Agreed. There is already plenty of evidence going back decades to suggest that genes are a much bigger influence on a child's size and weight than environment, and that removal except in the most pressing circumstances where they are at immediate and significant risk does far more long-term psychological harm than good. As such the news that such removal not only fails to make kids thinner but can trigger weight gain in the previously thin comes as little surprise. Yet the so-called 'experts' (and authorities desperate to be seen to be 'acting') stick their fingers in their ears and disregard anything that doesn't confirm their existing biases in pursuit of a righteous and determined witch-hunt.

More proof were it ever needed that the War on Fat People is not in any way about helping people or acting on robust evidence but is driven by parroted prejudice, lazy assumptions and asethetic disapproval. Personally I am less concerned with whose science is 'better' or the most effective method of making fat kids thin than with ending, as a priority, this increasing and routine traumatisation of children through socially-sanctioned removal from loving homes on the basis that this is somehow better than 'permitting' them to continue to live in a body which a tyrannical majority has deemed unacceptable. As surely as WLS is our lobotomy equivalent, so I am sure (or hope) that future analysts regard this as the adoption scandal of our age.

"What is right is not always popular and what is popular is not always right" - Albert Einstein

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