04987404 Voluntary Compliance Agreement
VOLUNTARY COMPLIANCE AGREEMENT
THE OFFICE FOR CIVIL RIGHTS
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMANS SERVICES
THE ALABAMA DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN RESOURCES
OCR Reference Number: 04-98-7404
The Parties to this Voluntary Compliance Agreement (hereinafter "the Agreement") are the Office for Civil Rights (hereafter "OCR") of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services hereafter "HHS") and the Alabama Department of Human Resources (hereafter "DHR").
DHR acknowledges that as a recipient of Federal Financial assistance it is subject to Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. Section 2000d et seq. (hereafter "Title VI"), and the regulations implemented thereunder as found at 45 C.F.R. Part 80, and the Multi-ethnic Placement Act of 1994 (hereafter "MEPA"), and Section 1808? of the Small Business Job Protection Act of 1996 (Removal of Barriers to Inter-ethnic Adoption), 42 U.S.C. Section 620 et seq. These authorities prohibit the implementation of foster care policies and practices which discriminate on the basis of race.
Pursuant to 45 C.F. R. section 80.7, OCR is authorized to conduct a review of DHR's foster care policies and practices to determine whether they discriminate on the basis or race, color, or national origin. The subject investigation focused on whether DHR selects foster parents and places children with them without regard to race, color, or national origin.
DHR denies that the policies and practices pertaining to its foster care program violate Title VI or MEPA. Nonetheless, in order to avoid the costs, time, uncertainties, and effort which may arise from the consummation of OCR's administrative investigation, DHR wishes to enter into the subject Agreement.
In reliance on the promises made by DHR in this Agreement, OCR agrees to suspend further administrative action against DHR, except pursuant to this Agreement, with respect to the
Review Number: 04-98-7404
specific issues and findings arising from OCR's compliance investigation of the agency's foster care program and as addressed in correspondence dated May 17, 2000.
- GENERAL PROVISIONS
- This Agreement shall become effective on the date it is executed by OCR (see the SIGNATURES page), following its execution by DHR. The Agreement will remain in effect as to DHR until it no longer receives Federal financial assistance from HHS or until the matters agreed to herein are no longer necessary for it to maintain compliance with Title VI and MEPA, whichever occurs first.
- DHR expressly denies that its foster care policies or practices discriminate on the basis of race, color, or national origin, or constitute any other wrongdoing, and therefore the Parties hereto acknowledge that this Agreement does not constitute an admission by DHR of any violation of Title VI or MEPA.
- This Agreement resolves the compliance issues arising from OCR's investigation of DHR's foster care program during a review referenced as number 04-98-7904. The Agreement does not apply to any other issues, reviews, or complainants of discrimination that may be pending before OCR. The Agreement does not apply to determinations by the Administration for Families and Children (hereafter "ACF") of HHS, or any other Federal agency regarding DHR's compliance with applicable statutes or regulations enforced by those agencies. The Agreement also does not preclude further OCR complaint investigations or compliance reviews of DHR. Any compliance matters arising from subsequent reviews or investigations will be addressed and resolved implementing regulation applicable to the matter raised.
- DHR shall not intimidate, threaten, coerce, or discriminate against any person who has filed a complaint, testified, assisted, or participated in any manner in the investigation of the matters addressed in the Agreement.
- OCR may review DHR's compliance with this Agreement. As part of such review OCR may require DHR to provide written submissions as stipulated herein or pursuant to 45 C.F.R. Section 80.6(b), and to permit OCR to inspect premises, interview witnesses, and examine and copy documents to determine DHR's compliance with the provisions of the Agreement. DHR agrees to retain, for so long as otherwise required by law, the records required by OC to assess its compliance with the Agreement and to submit the requested information to OCR, as specified below under Reporting Requirements.
- If at any time OCR determines that DHR has failed to comply with any provision of this Agreement, OCR will notify DHR in writing. The notice shall include a statement of the basis of OCR's decision, and will allow DHR in writing. The notice shall include a statement of the basis of OCR's decision, and will allow DHR fifteen (15) days to explain in writing the reasons for its actions. The time frame allowed for the response may be less than fifteen (15) days whenever OCR determines that a delay would result in irreparable harm to any person. If DHR does not respond to the notice, or if upon review of the response, OCR finds that DHR has not complied with any provision of this Agreement, OCR may request court action filed by the Attorney General of the United States seeking specific performance of the provisions of this Agreement, or take other appropriate action to secure compliance with the applicable statue or regulation. Evidence regarding DHR's alleged violation of the applicable statute or regulation, in addition to evidence regarding proceedings or other appropriate action that may be initiated. Violations of the Agreement may subject DHR to sanctions set forth in the statute or regulation authorizing enforcement or other appropriate action.
- When OCR verifies that DHR has completed all actions required by the Agreement, OCR will consider all deficiencies and violations arising out of its compliance review of DHR's foster care program resolved and so notify DHR and ACF in writing, unless OCR determines that possible violations of DHR continuing obligations under Title VI and this Agreement warrant further investigation or review. OCR shall make such verification or determination within sixty (6) days after DHR makes its final submission required under Section IV. Such verification shall not alter DHR's continuing obligations under Title IV and this Agreement or affect OCR's authority to enforce those obligations.
- This Agreement may be modified by mutual agreement of the Parties hereto in writing.
- OCR places no restriction on the release or publication of the terms of the Agreement. In addition, OCR may be required to release the Agreement and all related materials to any person upon request consistent with the requirements of the Freedom of Information Act, 5 U.S.C. 552, and its implementing regulation at 45 C.F.R. Part 5.
- SPECIFIC PROVISIONS
In order to ensure that its foster care program is being operated in compliance with Title VI and MEPA, DHR shall, if it has not already done so, undertake the following corrective measures:
- Institute appropriate steps to ensure that local case workers responsible for implementing the foster care program, especially those involved in the placement process, receive and familiarize themselves with all placement materials, directives, policies, procedures, guidelines, memoranda, etc., as developed and/or promulgated by DHR. Such measures may include, but not be limited to, implementation of a system whereby all such workers or their immediate supervisors verify that each of them has in fact received and read disseminated information regarding placements. The remedial measures instituted by DHR must also require that supervisors of placement workers implement necessary oversight steps to ensure that the placement practices of employees under their supervision actually comply with the policies/procedures/criteria promulgated
- Re-distribute to local staff working in foster care previously disseminated memoranda such as "Removal of Barriers to Inter-ethnic Adoption" and "Recruitment of Foster Care and Adoptive Parents" and all other similar guidelines which address its obligation to make placement determinations with out regard to race;
- Develop and promulgate policies and procedures that advise staff, particularly at the local level, that placement determinations cannot be denied or delayed on the basis of the race, color, or national origin of the prospective foster parent or the child involved. The subject policies shall state specifically that race, color, or national origin may not be routinely considered as part of the placement process. Race, color, or national origin may be considered in only very limited circumstances where, based on an individualized assessment, such consideration is necessary to achieve the best interests of the child being placed and is narrowly tailored to advance those interests. Also, staff should be informed that Title VI and Section 1808 prohibit the use of the culture as proxy for race or national misconstrued as interchangeable concepts.
- Develop and implement procedures to monitor and document the extent to which the actual placement practices of local case workers conform to the criteria and policies promulgated by DHR;
- Initiate steps requiring that JDCHR, as well as all other local programs with similar provisions, not only rescind their written, same-race placement policies, but also take appropriate action to notify all staff of the same. DHR shall further direct JDCHR and all other programs with similar policies, to explicitly apprise their staffs that such policies violated Title VI and MEPA;
- Undertake measures mandating that all local foster care programs rescind and all policies and procedures, and discontinue any and all practices, which are based on the presumption that same-race placements are in the children's best interest;
- Require local programs to remove from placement procedures/practices/policies/etc., unnecessary requirements, conditions, responsibilities, etc., which are applied exclusively to trans-racial placements solely because of the race or ethnicity of the parents and/or children involved;
- Require local programs to discontinue all practices based on the presumption that trans-racial placements should be temporary, and/or, or limited duration, solely because of the race or ethnicity of the child and parent involved;
- Instruct local programs to cease implementing all practices whereby the order in which the suitability of prospective parents is assessed and determined based on the race of the child and prospective foster parents involved; and
- Ensure that staff members, particularly at the local level, are provided initial and ongoing training and information regarding DHR's obligation to make foster care placements without regard to race, color, or national origin, as required under Title VI and MEPA.
- REPORTING REQUIREMENTS
- Within sixty (60) days after this Agreement becomes effective, DHR shall provide OCR with written summation of the specific steps it will undertake to ensure that local staff persons actually receive and become familiar with material disseminated regarding the foster care program.
- Within sixty (60) day after this Agreement becomes effective, DHR shall submit to OCR evidence that it has undertaken the measures addressed in paragraphs III ? through III(J) above.
- Within sixty (60) days after Agreement becomes effective, DHR shall submit to OCR evidence that it has re-distributed the information and materials specified in paragraph III(J)
- DHR hereby recognizes and acknowledges that timely submissions of the documentation required above, in conjunction with OCR's acceptance and approval thereof, is necessary to demonstrate its good faith in achieving compliance with its obligations under Title VI and MEPA.
SIGNATURE OF RESPONSIBLE REPRESENTATIVES
Approved and agreed to on behalf of Alabama Department of Human Resources
By: _____________________________ Date:__________________
Tony Petelos, Commissioner
Approved and agreed to on behalf of the Office for Civil Rights of the United States Department
of Health and Human Services
By: ____________________________ Date:___________________
Acting Regional Manager