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Protection from Race, Color, and National Origin Discrimination in Adoption and Foster Care

Two parents hold a babyAdoption and foster care are important opportunities and benefits for both prospective parents and children waiting to be adopted into permanent and safe homes. OCR and ACF work together to help states ensure that their child welfare polices, procedures and practices do not discriminate against children or prospective parents on the basis of race, color, or national origin.  Both agencies have developed guidance and other information that can help individuals understand their rights under the laws and help child welfare agencies and social workers comply with the laws to ensure that the best interests of children are served in adoptions and foster care.

Federal laws require recipients of Federal financial assistance to provide prospective parents and children equal access to the benefits and opportunities in adoption and foster care programs, without regard to race, color, or national origin. The Multiethnic Placement Act of 1994 (MEPA), as amended by Section 1808(c) of the Small Business Job Protection Act of 1996 (also known as the Interethnic Adoption Provisions or Section 1808) prohibits the use of a child’s or prospective parent’s race, color, or national origin to deny or delay a child’s placement.  The law also requires states to provide for the diligent recruitment of potential foster and adoptive families that reflect the ethnic and racial diversity of the children in care for whom homes are needed. For a summary of MEPA and Section 1808(c) Regulations.

Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VI) prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, or national origin in programs and activities that receive Federal financial assistance, including adoption and foster care programs.  Under the law, a violation of MEPA/Section 1808(c) is also a violation of Title VI. OCR enforces MEPA/Section 1808(c), and Title VI. Individuals who believe that they or someone else may have been discriminated against in violation of these laws may file a complaint. 

OCR ensures that people have equal access to and an opportunity to receive services from all HHS funded programs. Persons who believe they (or someone else) have been discriminated against -- because of race, color, national origin, age, or disability -- in health care or human services.