January 7, 2021
HHS OCR Enters into a Voluntary Resolution Agreement with the Arizona Department of Child Safety to Protect Limited English Proficient Parents from Discrimination
Today, the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announces that it has entered into a Voluntary Resolution Agreement (VRA) with the Arizona Department of Child Safety (DCS) to ensure that individuals with limited English proficiency (LEP) are provided meaningful access to DCS programs and activities, including reunification services.
OCR initiated a compliance review after local advocacy groups and affected parties alerted OCR to alleged deficiencies in DCS's provision of language services. Specifically, they alleged that DCS failed to provide LEP individuals with critical information and services in the individuals' primary language. OCR also investigated complaints from a number of LEP parents alleging that, despite multiple requests, they were not provided with adequate or timely Spanish interpretation or translation services, resulting in delays in the provision of services. These allegations led OCR to conduct a compliance review of DCS's programs, policies, and procedures for administering child welfare programs in compliance with its obligations under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VI) to take reasonable steps to provide meaningful access to LEP individuals.
Following data requests and an on-site investigation of DCS regional offices, OCR identified systemic deficiencies regarding DCS's implementation of its language access programs, policies, and procedures to prevent discrimination against LEP parents in Arizona's child welfare system. After OCR conveyed these concerns to DCS, DCS expressed willingness to work with OCR to ensure full compliance with its federal civil rights obligations under Title VI. As a result, OCR and DCS reached this agreement, reflecting DCS's commitment to taking reasonable steps to ensure meaningful access to LEP individuals. Specific provisions of the agreement include, but are not limited to: conducting and completing an assessment of the linguistic needs of the affected population served by DCS; strengthening the process for the identification and translation of vital documents provided by DCS; and ensuring DCS's written language access plan is fully implemented by all county and regional offices.
In addition, OCR will provide DCS with substantive technical assistance and feedback in response to reports DCS will be sending to OCR regarding its ongoing compliance activities.
Roger Severino, Director of OCR said, "We commend the Arizona Department of Child Safety for committing to making their programs more accessible to native Spanish speakers and other individuals with limited English proficiency." "As a son of Colombian immigrants, I know first-hand how important language access services are for non-native English speakers to fully benefit from vital health or social service programs," Severino concluded.
For more information on HHS OCR, please visit www.hhs.gov/ocr.
For more information about discrimination on the basis of limited English proficiency, visit: https://www.hhs.gov/civil-rights/for-individuals/special-topics/limited-english-proficiency/index.html.
To learn more about HHS protections from discrimination in the child welfare system, please visit: www.hhs.gov/civil-rights/for-individuals/special-topics/adoption.
To learn more about non-discrimination on the basis of sex, race, color, national origin, age, and disability; conscience and religious freedom; and health information privacy laws, and to file a complaint with OCR, please visit www.hhs.gov/ocr.
Follow HHS OCR on Twitter @HHSOCR.