Christian foster couple banned over smacking

A Christian couple from Somerset have been banned from fostering because they believe it is right to smack their own child when necessary.

David and Heather Bowen, from Taunton, have been married for eleven years and have one nine year-old daughter.

Following the death of their son Jonathan shortly after his birth three years ago, they decided to apply to become foster parents.

Although smacking is perfectly legal in the UK, David and Heather Bowen’s application to foster a child was rejected by Somerset County Council because they use physical chastisement to discipline their own daughter.

Mr Bowen, a Chartered Surveyor, said: “I am a parent Governor at a local school, my wife works for the school PTA, has been a special needs careers adviser and now works in the school and we both assist with children’s work at our local Church.

“Based upon the evidence presented to the Council, we cannot understand why we are unsuitable and it seems that we have been excluded on the basis that we physically chastise our birth child, in accordance with our beliefs and UK law.”

He added: “To put this in perspective, our birth daughter is only chastised physically as a last resort amongst a whole range of other forms of behaviour management strategies which include rewards and sanctions.”

In England, Wales and Northern Ireland it is lawful for parents to use ‘reasonable chastisement’ as long as it does not leave more than a transitory mark on the child.

The Government last year rejected calls to make smacking illegal, saying that most parents are in favour of the practice.

Mr Bowen said: “We have been made by the Council to feel that we are bad parents and yet we do nothing that hundreds of thousands of parents across the UK do as loving and responsible parents.”

The Bowens are appealing against the decision of Somerset County Council and are consulting with the Christian Legal Centre over filing a Judicial Review.