The Time Jeb Bush Hired a Spanking Proponent to Run His Troubled Child Welfare Agency

Mother Jones

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It was 2002, Gov. Jeb Bush was up for reelection, and the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) was in chaos. News had recently broken that a five-year-old Miami girl in state care had disappeared—and no one had noticed her absence for more than a year. Police had recently found a child welfare worker passed out drunk in her car with a kid in the back seat. A two-year-old boy was beaten to death on the same day a caseworker claimed to have visited him. The department head had quit amid a series of controversies. Bush needed a replacement, one that signaled that he had a plan to restore order to the scandal-plagued agency. But his choice to fill the job, Jerry Regier, a Christian conservative culture warrior who had served in Bush’s father’s presidential administration, soon landed in a controversy of his own involving spanking.

Regier held a range of hardline religious views and supported the use of corporal punishment against children. He was the founding president of Family Research Council, the social conservative group that has denounced homosexuality and defended the rights of parents to physically discipline their children. (FRC was co-founded by James Dobson, an influential psychologist who, starting in the 1970s, wrote numerous parenting books touting the value of using a switch or belt on defiant children.)

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The Time Jeb Bush Hired a Spanking Proponent to Run His Troubled Child Welfare Agency

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