The State Senate has voted to put foster-care facilities that are run by religious groups under a special provision of a new child abuse law. The proposed new child abuse law says religious-run foster-care facilities can exercise reasonable discipline. Senator Patrick Dougherty of St. Louis, a former family services employee, says the idea of allowing “reasonable discipline” is a big loophole for one class of foster-care provider. But the sponsor of the bill, Charlie Shields of St. Joseph, sees nothing wrong with the issue. He says the facility must have a written policy, and if the parents agree to what’s in that policy, then the discipline is considered reasonable. Shields says the standard should be high under those circumstances before the divsion of family services is allowed to move in and recommend prosecution. Dougherty complains no other category of foster care facility in Missouri is given that kind of protection. Shields says children who are sent to those facilities by their parents are hardly choir boys and need a high level of discipline, and it’s okay if the parents agree to it. The House has to agree to the idea before it is sent to the Governor for his signature.
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