SALT LAKE CITY — A non-profit group out of New York is providing free plastic surgeries to children and youth who say they have been bullied because of their physical deformities.
These surgeries have created controversies among child psychologists and parents who say they believe children should learn to embrace physical differences instead of conforming to societal expectations, according to NBC News.
School administrators and parents around the country have been cracking down on bullying through conprehensive measures over the last 10 years. According to the website MakeBeatsNotBeatDowns.com, on average 160,000 children miss all or part of school on any given day.
Michelle (last names have been withheld) said she disagrees. Her 15-year-old daughter Renata suffered from a condition that left her nose slanted to the side of her face. Renata was the target of intense bullying throughout school and said her deformities were the main cause.
“They were just calling me ‘that girl with the big nose,’” Renata told NBC News. “It just really hurts. And you can’t get over it.”
Renata applied to the Little Baby Face Foundation, a nonprofit group from New York that provides plastic surgery funds to kids who demonstrate a real need. The organization has been around since 2002 and doesn’t claim to provide surgeries to children with the sole motive of discouraging bullying.
Dr. Thomas Romo is the the director of facial, plastic and reconstructive surgery at Lenox Hill Hospital and the Manhattan Eye, Ear and Throat Hospital. He heads up the Little Baby Face Foundation and said he sees amazing results in the children and teens who receive help through plastic surgery.
“You take a child, and you change the way they look. To anybody who sees them, they’re good-looking,” Romo told NBC News’ Hoda Kotb. “That gives the child strength. We can’t go after the bully. But we can try and empower the children.”
The mission of the group is outlined on its website.
"The Little Baby Face Foundation (LBFF) transforms the lives of children born with facial deformities through corrective surgery. World-class surgeons and medical providers at the finest facilities in New York City volunteer their time to provide the best corrective surgery and medical care to children and their families who are in financial need worldwide."
Some child psychologists are critical of the motives behind the plastic surgeries. New York psychologist Vivian Diller told NBC news she worries about the impact these surgeries could have on children.
We really have to address the idea that there should be zero tolerance of bullying, and maybe we even have to encourage the acceptance of differences.
“Are we saying that the responsibility falls on the kid who’s bullied, to alter themselves surgically?” Diller said, “We really have to address the idea that there should be zero tolerance of bullying, and maybe we even have to encourage the acceptance of differences.”
Other critics point to research that shows bullies don’t target physical appearances in the majority of cases.
“They may do the surgery and expect happiness to result, or, let’s say, ‘I’m not going to be bullied anymore,” psychiatrist Gail Saltz told NBS News. “But it may not turn out that way, because bullying is complicated, and usually it isn’t down to one physical attribute.”
Whatever the controvery surrounding the operations may be, Renata said things greatly improved at school following her surgery.
“I feel happy and I feel confident, and I feel like I don’t have to hide myself anymore," Renata said.