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Independent Living News & Policy from the National Council on Independent Living

Information Alert: NCIL Is Excited to Announce New Guidance on Protecting Parents with Disabilities from Discrimination

Last week, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) released a new technical assistance (TA) document entitled Protecting the Rights of Parents and Prospective Parents with Disabilities. The document is intended to advise state and local child welfare agencies and courts on their obligations to protect the rights of parents and prospective parents with disabilities.

The TA stemmed from a rising number of discrimination complaints by people with disabilities involved with the child welfare system, as well as enforcement activities finding uneven protections among child welfare agencies and courts. It provides a clear overview of the need for this guidance, citing several recent cases of discrimination as well as the 2012 National Council on Disability (NCD) report, Rocking the Cradle: Ensuring the Rights of Parents with Disabilities and Their Children. The TA also provides an overview of child welfare agencies’ legal requirements under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, stating that “the goals of child welfare and disability non-discrimination are mutually attainable and complementary.”

Parents’ rights have long been a priority for NCIL members, and much effort has been put in over the last few years. The NCIL ADA/ Civil Rights Subcommittee has made parents’ rights a focus area. Just last month, Kelly Buckland, NCIL’s Executive Director, sat on a panel at the NCD quarterly meeting to discuss the civil rights of parents with disabilities. And last year, Michael Bullis, Executive Director of the Image Center in Baltimore, and Lindsay Baran, Policy Analyst at NCIL, testified at NCD’s Congressional Forum on ensuring the rights of parents with disabilities and their children. 

Too many of us know from experience the discrimination parents with disabilities face. Too many of us have been faced with the possibility of our children being taken away simply because we have disabilities. This guidance makes clear that child welfare decisions must not be based on harmful stereotypes, and that parents and prospective parents with disabilities must be protected from this type of discrimination.

NCIL applauds HHS and DOJ on the release of this guidance, and hopes that it serves as an important step towards correcting the widespread discrimination in our child welfare system.

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