Feds Work To Protect Parents With Intellectual Disabilities
Federal officials say that a state has agreed to change its ways after child welfare workers sought to remove children from their mom and dad allegedly because of the parents’ low IQs.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights said it has reached a voluntary resolution agreement with the Oregon Department of Human Services. Under the agreement, the state agency will follow laws protecting the rights of parents with disabilities and has committed to update its policies and procedures, create new training and undergo monitoring.
The Oregon agency “will ensure that its safety requirements are based on actual risks that pertain to the individual parent and not on mere speculation, generalizations or stereotypes about individuals with disabilities,” the agreement states.
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The development comes after the state agency lost its bid to keep two children from their parents, Amy Fabbrini and Eric Ziegler, who have low IQs.
The children were both removed from the parents shortly after birth, according to federal officials. One was returned to the parents after 10 months when a county circuit court dismissed the state’s neglect petition. The other was reunited with the parents after four years apart when the circuit court denied a petition from the state to terminate the parents’ rights.
In light of the case, the HHS Office for Civil Rights said it investigated the Oregon agency’s practices more broadly and found “systemic deficiencies” in regard to the “implementation of its disability rights policies, practices and procedures to prevent discrimination against parents with disabilities in Oregon’s child welfare system.”
The rights of parents with disabilities are protected under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act, according to the civil rights office.
Under the agreement, the Oregon agency is still permitted to remove children from parents with disabilities, but only in cases where there is a “direct threat to the safety of the child.” Such a threat, however, cannot be based on “stereotypes or generalizations about persons with disabilities, or on a participant’s diagnosis or intelligence measures (e.g., IQ scores) alone.”
“A mother’s and father’s love can overcome a multitude of challenges, and a state should only remove children from their parents based on actual evidence of abuse or neglect, not stereotypes. Parents with intellectual or other disabilities should not be presumed to be unable to care for their own children,” said Roger Severino, director of the HHS Office for Civil Rights.
The Oregon Department of Human Services said that the agreement is in line with the agency’s values and offers a framework to best serve families.
“We appreciate the collaborative approach as well as the assistance of the Office of Civil Rights in helping identify areas for practice improvements to ensure that all families receive the supports and services that meet their individual needs,” said Fariborz Pakseresht, director of the state agency, in a statement.