Parental Neglect a Thorny Issue

Sometimes parental desires clash with those of authorities

By Wesley Oliver,  Newser Staff

Posted May 23, 2009 6:19 PM CDT

(Newser) – “Parental neglect” is a tricky term that may indicate just the opposite: devoted parents who care for their children, but in a way authorities oppose, Kate Dailey writes in Newsweek. It’s a paradox illustrated by two moms who fled with their sons this week, one to prevent him from receiving chemo—she prefers holistic healing—and the other perhaps too poor to hire a doctor for her 555-pound son.

South Carolina officials say the mother of overweight, 14-year-old Alexander Draper is neglecting him. But neglect isn’t always clear-cut, writes Daily, and poverty complicates matters. “Even when parents love their children, the government often has to determine if that love is enough. It's never easy, it's always heartbreaking and—worst of all—the child loses out, one way or another.”

Jerri Althea Gray and her son, Alexander Draper, fled South Carolina to avoid a court hearing to determine if she was being medically negligent in caring for her son.   (AP Photo/The Greenville County Sheriff's Office)
This is an undated family photo provided by The Greenville County Sheriff's Office of Alexander Draper of Travelers Rest, S.C. who is missing Thursday, May 21, 2009.   (AP Photo/The Greenville County Sheriff's Office)
This May 13, 2009 photo shows Colleen, left, and Daniel Hauser at their farm in Sleepy Eye, Minn.   (AP Photo/The Journal Of New Ulm, Steve Muscatello)
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[The state] can tell you to take better care of your child, and if you just don't do it, then what? It's hard to sanction parents. - Carl Schneider,
professor of internal medicine and law

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