Evaluating obesity in substitute carers

Evaluating obesity in substitute carers

Mary Mather, Karen Lehner


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Obesity is an escalating health problem in many countries, including the UK. Obesity is also a contentious area of practice, and for social workers involved in the assessment of applicants to foster and adopt it is just one of the many important issues to be considered, and can be very challenging.

Precise judgements of the health risks of obesity and how these could affect looked after children are difficult to make with current research evidence. At what level does obesity become a serious health issue, and what long-term health risks does it cause? Will obesity limit a parent or carer’s ability to look after a child? Many looked after children have suffered neglected health in their birth families and have a complicated relationship with food; consideration also needs to be given to the impact of pre-care experiences in substitute families. Could living with obese carers have an additional impact on the child?

Practitioners need to consider obesity and associated health issues alongside many other factors in order to reach a balanced view about the potential benefits and drawbacks of a placement for an individual child. This Good Practice Guide provides essential, considered information and advice for all those involved in making decisions about the approval of prospective adopters and foster carers.

Who is this book for?

Social work practitioners, managers, panel members and health advisers.

What you will find in this book

The guide gives advice and information about:

  • measuring obesity in adults and children
  • the short- and long-term health risks
  • principles to bear in mind when assessing obese applicants
  • the role of the health adviser in providing guidance on these issues

It also contains information about calculating risk and includes a number of case studies which illustrate the need to make balanced decisions.


Mary Mather:
Dr Mary Mather is a retired Consultant Community Paediatrician.

Dr Karen Lehner is a Consultant Community Paediatrician, South West Essex Community Services and a Designated Doctor for Looked after Children, South West Essex.