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Pastor Kirk Schield and his wife lose foster care license over spankings

Spanking is legal in Minnesota, but against the state's foster parent rules.
Spanking is legal in Minnesota, but against the state's foster parent rules.

People who have worked with Kirk and Beth Schield's foster children call them "loving and caring" parents. Yet the couple's foster care license has been revoked after a state investigator couldn't get Beth to promise she'd stop spanking her foster children.

Kirk is pastor of Shepherd of the Lake Lutheran Church in Two Harbors. In May, a Department of Human Services investigation found that Beth spanked a foster child on more than one occasion "although she knew it was not allowed." She also "told [officials] she could not assure them that she would discontinue using corporal punishment on foster children." The report also concluded that Beth failed to report details of the child's behavior to the placing agency as required by the child's case plan.

A 2008 Minnesota Supreme Court ruling upheld parents' right to spank, and some studies have shown that a swat on the ass here and there in the context of an otherwise loving parent-children relationship has no long-term negative effect. Minnesotans generally don't have a problem with spanking, as a 2005 poll found that 63 percent of state residents "think it is OK to spank a child."

But the state's foster parent rules state that children must not be subjected to corporal punishment.

The Duluth News Tribune spoke with Sara Byrns, a former track and ski coach at Two Harbors High School who coached the Schields' children during her tenure and called the couple "loving and caring."

"They've been huge supporters of their kids... and volunteered and helped out in whatever way I've needed," Byrns said.

Good parents or not, the Schields' foster children were removed from their care following the May investigation. Their foster care license was formally revoked last week.

Kirk Schield told the Two Harbors newspaper that he and his wife plan to appeal the decision and hope to have their license reinstated soon.


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