The Virginian-Pilot, July 9, 2000

Rules that allow spanking of foster children should be rescinded

Social Worker: Johnny, meet your new foster parents, Sharon and Bob. They're really nice people. Now you behave or they'll spank you.

Johnny: How hard?

SW: Listen, it's for your own good. You have to learn discipline. That's your problem.

J: How come I've been hit my whole life and I never learned discipline?

SW: They won't strike you out of anger. If they spank you, it will be an act of loving corporal punishment.

J: How can they love me? We just met.

SW: But they have your best interest at heart.

J: If they don't love me, can they still hit me?

SW: Johnny, I think you're missing the point.

J: When did this hitting stuff start?

SW: Virginia's state Board of Social Services voted last month to allow it.

J: Why?

SW: They believe it will help in recruiting foster parents.

J: You mean they'll take foster parents who won't care for kids unless they can hit 'em?

SW: Well, there were legal concerns.

J: I would hope so. Look, if I'm gonna get hit, I'd like smaller foster parents. Sharon and Bob are big.

SW: They're not going to hurt you.

J: Then why hit me?

SW: I mean, they won't injure you.

J: Not so it shows.

The new foster-child rules, though approved, are not yet in effect. Barring a change of the board's mind, they will take effect Nov. 1.

Rules currently in effect prohibit spanking and shaking. The rules approved in June would prohibit harsh shaking but not all shaking. They prohibit spanking only ``where abusive.''

The state's legal definition of abuse is any action that ``creates a substantial risk of death, disfigurement or impairment of bodily functions.''

The American Academy of Pediatrics states that spanking is not an effective form of discipline. One of the things that hitting teaches is hitting. Another is that might makes right.

Some parents continue to swear by spanking. But foster parents should not strike the children they are paid to care for. A foster home should be a refuge from physical harm. Many of the children are desperate for such a place.

The state Board of Social Services can still rescind the rules if it wants to. The public will have 60 days to comment on them, beginning July 17.

Comments on the regulations can be mailed to Doris Jenkins, Child Welfare Licensing, Virginia Department of Social Services, 730 E. Broad St., Richmond, Va. 23219.

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