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Massachusetts Couple Takes Foster Parent Fight to State’s Highest Court

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Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court

A Massachusetts couple has taken their request to become foster parents to the state Supreme Judicial Court after being denied by a lower court.

Melanie and Gregory Magazu want to become foster parents, but so far their request has been denied because they refuse to refrain from spanking their own child at home.

"I don't think the fact that we spank our children should automatically preclude us," Gregory Magazu said.

"There's a big difference between spanking appropriately and abuse," Melanie Magazu said.

The state Supreme Judicial Court heard the case Thursday. The Fitchburg couple is challenging the decision by the Department of Children and Families to reject their application to become foster parents.

A DCF attorney for the agency told the justices that the agency has a practice of not putting foster kids in homes were corporal punishment is practiced.

"The department does not always know what that child has seen or experienced and does not know always if that child will be able to distinguish between lovingly administered physical discipline and abuse," assistant AG Annapurna Balakrishna said.

A statement from DCF reiterated much of Balakrishna's argument in court.

"Because of the significant trauma children in DCF care may have experienced, Department policy requires that foster parents agree not to use physical punishment as discipline. This couple was denied as foster parents based on their use of corporal punishment on their biological children and the negative effect that could have on foster children," spokesperson Andrea Grossman said in a statement to necn.

Although the Magazus say they told DCF they wouldn't spank any of the foster children placed in their home, they have refused to make the same kind of pledge for their own three children, in part because their religious beliefs support spanking as a form of discipline for children.

"Just deciding, well, because you spank, that's it, you're out, just automatically disqualifies a lot of families that could be fully appropriate to help with this huge burden we have here in Massachusetts," Gregory Magazu said.

The Magazus have been fighting since 2012 to become foster parents, but it will be another three to four months before the state Supreme Judicial Court whether that will happen. 

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