FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: HHS Office of Civil Rights
January 11, 2016
Georgia Enters into Agreement to Ensure Equal Access for Individuals with Disabilities to Foster and Adoption Programs and Services
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights (OCR) entered into a settlement agreement with the state of Georgia, Department of Human Services, Division of Family and Children Services (DFCS) to improve access for qualified individuals with disabilities to participate in and benefit from all of its programs and services for foster and adoption activities.
This Agreement resolves a discrimination complaint filed with OCR by an individual with a disability. The Complainant alleged that DFCS denied her application to become a Foster-Adopt parent because of her disability in violation of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504) and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (Title II). Following an investigation, OCR concluded that DFCS failed to make an individualized assessment of the Complainant’s ability to be a Foster-Adopt parent and instead improperly used disability as a criterion to make placement decisions. In addition, DFCS also failed to consider whether supportive services that are offered to other foster parents would have addressed their concerns and allowed the complainant to participate in the program.
“This case emphasizes the critically important need for state and local agencies to ensure their compliance with Section 504 and Title II and, in particular, to prevent decisions made based on improper considerations about an applicant’s disability,” said Jocelyn Samuels, OCR’s Director. “We are pleased that we were able to resolve this issue with DFCS and help remove potential barriers for individuals with disabilities seeking to participate in the state’s foster and adoption programs and services.”
OCR is responsible for enforcing Section 504 and Title II. Section 504 prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in programs or activities which receive Federal financial assistance, and Title II prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in programs and activities of state and local government entities. Together, these regulations not only ensure that covered entities do not deny a qualified individual with a disability access to aids or services, but also require entities to make reasonable modifications in policies, practices, or procedures when the modifications are necessary to avoid discrimination against individuals with disabilities.
Under this Agreement, DFCS agreed to take several actions to improve access including establishing non-discrimination polices; designating Section 504/Title II coordinators for each DFCS region; implementing grievance procedures, a reasonable modification policy, and standard operating procedures for conducting an individualized assessment; and being monitored by OCR for a twenty-four month period. In addition, DFCS Foster Care Adoption Staff will receive comprehensive training on the requirements of Section 504 and Title II.
To read the full agreement text, click here
For more information about discrimination on the basis of disability, visit: http://www.hhs.gov/civil-rights/for-individuals/disability/index.html. To learn more about protections from discrimination in the child welfare system, visit: http://www.hhs.gov/civil-rights/for-individuals/special-topics/adoption/index.html.
To learn more about HHS OCR, as well as find information on filing a complaint, visit us at http://www.hhs.gov/civil-rights/index.html.
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