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Joe Social Worker Explains Why Spanking Parents Can’t Take In Foster Kids

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Hello Turtleboy and Turtle Riders!

Joe Social Worker is here to challenge the almighty Turtleboy, after he specifically requested our input on the Fitchburg Foster Home situation.

But first, we would like to extend our most sincere gratitude to Turtleboy and TB Nation for making Joe Social Worker’s Open Letter the 37th most read article on TBS in 2015. We are beyond thankful that the Turtle Riders have been open to understanding the plight of DCF social workers. We are equally as thankful to those who have helped advocate for reformed child welfare policy on all levels.

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Anyone who pays attention to their immediate surroundings can tell you that 2015 was a shitty year to be a DCF worker. It was an even worse year for many of our children, as the abundance of tragedies that bombarded our news outlets have detailed. Please continue to help the voiceless children of Massachusetts by using what we have learned from these senseless tragedies, to not just rebuild, but reform DCF on both a state level, and in the court of public opinion. Because our children deserve better that what we have created for them.

Now to the nitty gritty: Should this Jesus-loving Fitchburg family have been denied as a foster home because they spank their kids?


All you parents out there have some strong opinions as to whether or not spanking is an appropriate form of discipline. This debate is endless, and Joe Social Worker does not think that it is constructive to answering the ultimate question.

The fact of the matter is that you simply cannot be a foster home if you spank your kids. It’s just DCF policy. Joe Social Worker could list all of the reasons WHY this is policy, but to sum it up for you Colrainian simpletons:

Foster homes are specifically selected, trained, and designed as to be safe places for abused and neglected children’s little broken souls to have the opportunity to finally heal. Foster kids have inevitably been traumatized, either by their parents, DCF removing them from their parents, or both. These kids cannot heal in environments where they are subject or witness to physical abuse.

Because as far as DCF is concerned, spanking children is a form of physical abuse.

looks like someone needs a spanking

Joe would like to kindly and respectfully challenge Turtleboy’s position that the kind Christians from Fitchburg, who claim to spank their own kids out of devotion to God Almighty, pale in comparison to Kimberly Malpass’ house of horrors. DCF is not willing to weigh the lesser of two evils. As far as Joe Social Worker is concerned, any parent who spanks their kid in the name of Jesus is just as insane as every radical Muslim who terrorizes in the name of Allah. Our kids deserve better. The foster children of Massachusetts should be in homes where one does not even have to question a concern for their wellbeing.

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Now, we’re not saying that we get it right every time. Joe Social Worker and DCF workers everywhere are probably chomping at the bit to tell you how fucked up some of the foster homes are. But the one, immeasurably small silver lining to the death of Ava Conway Coxon in Kim Malpass’ care, was the public’s demands for DCF to implement the highest possible standards for all foster homes. And so, we are trying.

Joe is going to go out on a pretty feeble limb and bet that this Fitchburg family who loves spanking and the Messiah and whatnot, are probably a nice family. I mean they aired their dirty laundry in Supreme Court, fighting DCF for the ability to foster children. They even promised to never spank the foster kids. And it’s not like we have enough foster homes, anyways. So why not?


Because if we simply take this family’s word for it, and the family turns around and spanks the shit out of a kid (or worse), then we risk a lawsuit, or media attacking us, and the flooding of questions from the public demanding to know why on earth the state would ever allow physically abusive parents to take in children that WE are responsible for keeping safe. We risk further damaging the little lives we were entrusted to protect, and that is not acceptable.

But Joe Social Worker would like to call attention to the larger issue at the heart of this controversy:

Sure, every parent has the right to parent their kid in the way that they see fit. But like everything else in the universe, raising your kid in any way DCF doesn’t agree with results in parents facing some consequences.

In short: if you guys haven’t noticed by now, DCF has the right to label you as neglectful or abusive for shit that you might think is perfectly okay. Spanking is just one example of this. 51As get filed on parents and supported by the Department for innocent and unpreventable shit all the time. Missing too many doctors appointments, too many absences from school, arguments between parents, allegations made by scornful ex, arguments between parents with the kids present, are just a few examples of situations that warrant a 51A and an investigation by DCF. Most of these warrant an open case after investigation.

Parenting is no longer considered subjective as far as DCF is concerned. DCF can tell you how to parent, and threaten to file for custody of your kid if we think the kid is in danger when you don’t comply. At that point it is up to a judge to decide. But the moral of the story is: What goes on in your home between your family is essentially not up to you to decide.


And more: being labeled as an abusive or neglectful parent by DCF isn’t just a record that sits in a DCF database somewhere and prevents you from fostering kids. DCF records can show up on background checks. Some schools won’t let parents with DCF records chaperone field trips or school dances. Actually, most public schools and day care centers, hospitals, etc. can access a persons DCF record, and can refuse to hire you if you’ve had a supported 51A. All because you spanked your kid in the name of the Lord.

Does Joe think this is fair? Not always. That’s why both of Joe Social Worker’s previous Open Letters featured on TBS explained that not all of our clients are fucking monsters like the Jessica Conways, Randall Lints’, and Erica Murrays of the world. But public service announcement: this is the reality of living in Massachusetts in 2016.


When in doubt, Joe Social Worker urges you to consider if any of you would ever choose to have your children be supervised by any stranger who has been proven to be abusive or neglectful.

If your answer to that question is “Yeah, sure! Why not?” then we would be willing to venture out on a much sturdier limb to bet that you probably have an open DCF case already. If not, we will surely see you soon!

Thank you for listening, Joe Social Worker



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10 Comment(s)
  • StupidIsAsStupidDoes
    January 8, 2016 at 8:26 am

    While I agree that this particular family should not house foster children, I DO find it rather disturbing that Joe Social Worker so readily admits that DCF is like Big Brother looming over all parents just waiting for them to make one mistake to take their children. As a parent, this makes me anxious and overly vigilant when I should be MOST concerned with doing what is best for my kid. Many of my generation’s parents were raised in Catholic schools where the nuns whacked their knuckles with a ruler. That wasn’t all that long ago. Now parents have to be fearful that if they spank their child’s diapered butt instead of letting them stick their finger in the light socket for the tenth time DCF may come take their kid away? I think this is one of the reasons DCF cannot get their crap together. They are inundated by these “cases” of parents giving their kid a little spank and don’t have time to pay any real attention to the Bella Bonds of the world.

    • anonon
      January 8, 2016 at 9:49 pm

      Just type “Justina Pelletier” into a search engine…your fears will be confirmed.

      • StupidIsAsStupidDoes
        January 9, 2016 at 12:24 am

        That is so terrifying. Thank you for the information!

  • Um
    January 8, 2016 at 7:21 am

    I honestly find it disturbing that this article was needed to explain why this family couldn’t have foster kids. Even though I don’t spank my kids personally, I’m not really against it. I just believe it should be a last-case scenario and my brood has yet to push that line. But I 100% saw why it couldn’t be allowed in a foster home, even before this post.

  • Grump
    January 7, 2016 at 8:03 pm

    It’s articles like this that prevent turtle boy from being written off as just more loudmouth partisan punditry. Keep up the good work, TB! I don’t always agree with you, but I don’t always disagree with you!

  • FosterParent
    January 7, 2016 at 8:02 pm

    From the Globe-Justice Cordy suggested the Magazus underwent a more rigorous background check because of their religious beliefs. He noted that the Magazus’ application to be foster parents was reviewed — and rejected — by the same office that approved Kimberly Malpass to be a foster mother in 2014. Last August, a 2-year-old girl died in an Auburn home and a 22-month-old was severely injured because of neglect by Malpass, a state investigation found, Cordy noted.

    “The only flaw latched onto by the department was the plaintiffs’ explanation that their deeply held Christian religious beliefs included the use of physical discipline (albeit sparingly applied) in the upbringing of their children,’’ Cordy wrote about the Magazus.

    Cordy added that “one is left to wonder . . . whether the real problem in this case was not so much the department’s concern for child safety but rather a disagreement with the plaintiffs’ beliefs regarding the upbringing of their children.’’

    • anonon
      January 8, 2016 at 9:48 pm

      You are on the money. I can understand the debate about corporal punishment in relation to foster children. However, this is not about corporal punishment as much as it is about not approving a “traditional” family (married man and woman) with a religious component, while DCF lets unmarried welfare women with live-in boyfriends (who have drug habits, arrest records, and are hidden from the DCF folks when they come to visit) to take in as many children as they want.

  • davidsl
    January 7, 2016 at 7:44 pm

    I never spanked my kids. I have witnessed other parents spanking their kids, from the benign (my opinion) – once on a well padded bottom to emphasize a safety rule, to (monstrous) – throwing a toy in anger and hitting a child in the eye! As a child of spanking parents, I was always afraid I was next – even when I wasn’t the ‘one’ in trouble.

    I disagreed with TB re this family’s ‘right’ to foster children, for the same reasons Joe SW put forth: foster children must be placed in the safest, most comforting environment possible. Children can’t appreciate the context of (spiritual??) spanking for the “Lord” v. angry/punishing spanking. Witnessing any type of violence after being abused themselves can be just as frightening. I appreciate TB’s opinions on most everything. I hope he changes his mind here.

  • Free TB
    January 7, 2016 at 5:30 pm

    Great insight again into a complex issue. I was spanked for misbehaving. I spanked my son for misbehaving. But when you put it into the context of broken, traumatized children, I can’t even entertain the possibility. They have simply been through and seen too much. Thank you, Joe Social Worker, for helping me see this.

  • Maggie the Cat
    January 7, 2016 at 3:51 pm

    Good post, Joe. But a couple of questions: what happens to kids when there’s no foster home available? And, why are kids frequently placed with family members who are just as bad as the parents?

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