Obesity in looked after children: is foster care protective from the dangers of obesity?
BACKGROUND: 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. METHOD: 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. RESULT: 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. OUTCOME: Looked after care did not protect a child from the national problem of increasing weight gain and obesity.