Popularized newspaper photo of Dundee family
A couple soon expecting their seventh child has had their fifth and sixth taken by social workers after warnings that the family needed to slim down their overweight kids or risk losing custody.
The unnamed 39-year-old mother from Dundee, Scotland, told the United Kingdom’s The Sun newspaper, “This is every family’s worst nightmare.”
Scotland’s television station STV reports the family was warned last year that they risk losing all of their kids, ages 3 to 13, unless the children lost weight. At the time, the youngest, a girl, weighed 56 pounds. The oldest, a boy, has since grown to over 220 pounds.
“This whole case has been dreadful,” said Kathleen Price, the couple’s attorney. “Neither of these parents takes drink or drugs. They have a big, happy, noisy family, which is prone to being overweight.”
Price added, “To remove their children for that reason is scandalous. They had their children taken from them … and have no idea where they are. I have also had to warn them I believe social workers will enter the labor suite when their new baby arrives next month. They feel they are being victimized and are a complete mess.”
The family’s 3- and 4-year-old have been moved into foster care, and STV reports the parents have been told “active steps” are being taken to remove the remaining children as well.
Experts contacted by STV warn that local authorities in the U.K., such as Dundee’s City Council, which oversees the decision to remove the children, now treat obesity as an “abuse issue.”
Tam Fry, member of the National Obesity Forum, said, “More councils are now viewing obesity as an abuse issue, but not on the same scale as sexual or physical abuse, and it would be cruel not to let these parents have any contact. What they should be doing is placing the children in hospital and bringing their weight back to a normal level while working with the family.”
The couple originally contacted social workers last year, seeking help with managing their children, STV reports, but local officials soon began to grow concerned about the children’s weight.
The parents were then ordered to send their children to dance and soccer lessons and provided paid supervisors that monitored the family and provided health direction.
At the time, the mother said, “They keep making an issue about the kids’ weight. I don’t even own a deep-fat fryer. All my food is home-cooked, and the kids are not fed junk food. Children can carry a bit of puppy fat, but they tend to lose it as they get older. Ours are not being given that chance.”
Though the family’s story and the city’s warning that the children need to slim down had been covered widely in U.K. newspapers, a spokesman for Dundee City Council denied that removing the children was done solely on the basis of a “weight issue.”