Feds target discrimination in child welfare system

The Hill

By Lydia Wheeler – 08/10/15 02:04 PM EDT

The Obama administration on Monday released guidance to state and local child welfare agencies to prevent discrimination against parents, foster parents and adoptive parents with disabilities.

The release follows complaints to the Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) from parents who have had their children taken away from them and from individuals who have not been given equal opportunities to become foster or adoptive parents.

The guidance includes an overview of Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which prohibits discrimination based on disabilities in state and local services, and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, which prohibits people with disabilities from being excluded from, or denied benefits of any program or activity that either receives federal financial assistance or is conducted by any executive agency.

The agencies said the guidance, or “technical assistance,” underscores that Title II and Section 504 prohibit child welfare agencies from acting on unfounded assumptions, generalizations or stereotypes regarding persons with disabilities.

“This technical assistance reflects an important milestone in the ongoing effort to realize equality for individuals with disabilities in all aspects of our society,” Vanita Gupta, principal deputy assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division of the DOJ, said in a press release. “The ADA and Section 504 ensure that all government providers of programs, activities, and services treat people with disabilities in a fair and equal manner.”

Senate Democrats last week introduced legislation to improve the child welfare system.

The Family Stability & Kinship Care Act would give states the flexibility to make investments in family services and placement with relatives to reduce costly and traumatic stays in foster care.

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