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Fitchburg Couple Who Spanks Their Children Fights To Become Foster Parents

FITCHBURG (CBS) - Greg and Melanie Magazu have two young daughters learning to play the piano – and a newborn son.

But as Christians who believe that scripture directs them to take care of orphans they'd also love to add some foster children to their Fitchburg home – especially since Melanie suffered an abusive childhood that sent her into foster care at age 11.

"That's what we want to be for a child," she says. "A life raft."

They first offered to serve in 2012 and the state social worker who came to their place for a home study couldn't have been more complimentary.

"Our social worker was telling us 'Wow, you guys are wonderful parents. You're exactly what we're looking for,'" Greg recalls.

Until the discussion turned to the subject of spanking.

"As soon as we got to the spanking question," Greg says, "it was like 'Oh. You spank your children? Well, you need to stop doing that.' And when we said we weren't going to stop doing that they said 'No kids for you.'"

Indeed, the Magazu's were rejected as foster parents because they believe the bible encourages spanking as a loving form of measured punishment – never in anger – always beginning with a chat about the reason and ending with a hug.

"We always talk about we discipline in love," says Greg.

Still, the Fitchburg couple assured the Department of Children and Families there would be no spanking for foster kids – only their own.

"We have children," Greg says. "You can observe them and see they are well-adjusted and well taken care of."

"So we really wanted to be able to help other children," he continued, "recognizing they come out of trouble homes and need someone who is sensitive to that."

But DCF still disqualified them, arguing any corporal punishment under their roof might have an adverse effect for foster children placed there.

Worcester Superior Court Judge Brian Davis agreed, ruling that any awareness of physical punishment in the home "could very well trigger the very trauma the placement was intended to mitigate."

"They have to protect their kids – we get that," says Melanie. "But I think that not every family that's spanking is an abusive family."

Spanking is legal in Massachusetts – but many have frowned upon it in recent decades amid studies that have asserted it does more harm than good.

One study by the American Psychological Association asserted links to aggressive and anti-social behavior in children, along with low self-esteem.

"We have not seen any of the negative things studies claim can happen when you spank your kids," says Greg.

So next month, the Magazu's will essentially ask the state's highest court for permission to become foster parents – offering their own happy, well-adjusted kids as evidence – with the hope this debate will no longer be defined solely by spanking.

"The issue is – how are you parenting and are you a fit parent," says Melanie.

DCF declined comment citing the pending legal case.

It's no secret the agency has been under fire these last 18 months for poor performance and bad decisions.

But it's also desperate for quality foster parents.

If the Magazu's win, they hope it will open the door for other Christian couples to become foster parents – folks who might have been screened out before.

Their lawyer – David Bodanza – will go before the Supreme Judicial Court on September 10th.

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