Court Rules Couple Can't Be Foster Parents Because They Believe In Spanking

by Ashley Austrew

A court ruled these parents can’t take in foster kids because they believe in corporal punishment.

Spanking is a controversial topic in the parenting world, but even more so when foster children are involved. That’s why the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court just ruled a born-again Christian family isn’t isn’t allowed to adopt a foster child because they believe in using corporal punishment.

Gregory and Melanie Magazu are parents to two young daughters and a newborn son. Melanie was in foster care herself from ages 11 to 18 and has always wanted to get involved with helping kids. The only problem is, she and her husband told the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families (DCF) they believe in bible-mandated corporal punishment and spank their children. According to the Telegram & Gazette, the couple justify their spanking by citing a bible passage that reads, “Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.”

The couple first applied to become foster parents in 2012 and had their application denied because of their reliance on spanking for discipline. They appealed the decision, saying the denial of their application based on their beliefs “infringe(d) on their constitutional right to the free exercise of religion.” In a unanimous decision, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court rightfully disagreed, saying their religious interests are secondary to the interest of “protecting the physical and emotional well-being of foster children.”

As the Telegraph & Gazette reports, the DCF’s main concern was that the couple’s use of spanking could be especially traumatizing and harmful to foster children who come from abusive situations. Not to mention, evidence continues to prove that spanking is much more harmful to kids than previously thought.

According to the American Psychological Association, 30 countries around the world have banned physical punishment of children in all settings, including the home, because it “can lead to increased aggression, antisocial behavior, physical injury and mental health problems for children.” The problem, they say, is that spanking doesn’t work in the long term: punishments must be escalated to achieve the same result, and the practice teaches children to resort to aggression to handle conflicts.

Despite the many people who defend spanking, it’s a potentially harmful and very outdated practice, and there’s no reason to subject vulnerable kids to physical punishment. Kids in foster care come from a variety of backgrounds, and they don’t get a lot of time to develop a loving, trusting bond with their foster parents. They need stability and to feel as safe as possible, and to introduce any sort of physical punishment in that instance would just create fear and distrust.

The Magazus offered to refrain from spanking their foster children and instead only spank their biological kids, but that seems like a very poor compromise — not only because there’s no guarantee they’d keep their promise, but also because that’s very confusing and unfair to their kids. In this instance, the court’s decision just seems like common sense. Spanking is an outdated form of punishment, and the Magazus may have the best of intentions, but that doesn’t mean their parenting style is a good fit for foster kids.