Federal officials are pushing for changes after the parental rights of a young mother with intellectual disability were terminated.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights said it has provided technical assistance to the New Jersey Department of Children and Families in an effort to ensure that parents with disabilities do not face discrimination in the state’s child welfare system. The interaction has resulted in changes at the state agency, federal officials said.

The civil rights office got involved after receiving a complaint alleging that a young mother with intellectual disability was not provided the modified support services and accommodations she needed in order to reunite with her child. For over three years, the complaint indicated that the woman was not given an individualized assessment to determine her needs and connect her with reunification services.

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As a result of the technical assistance, the New Jersey Department of Children and Families gave notice to people with disabilities telling them of their rights to reasonable accommodations and developed new disability training, federal civil rights officials said.

In addition, the state agency plans to implement regulations spelling out its commitment to inclusivity and reasonable accommodations in line with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

“We commend New Jersey for updating its policies to ensure that it does not deny family reunification based on stereotypes about parents with disabilities or other impermissible factors,” said Roger Severino, director of the HHS Office for Civil Rights. “Our civil rights laws reflect the fundamental principle that we are all created with equal dignity and worth.”

The woman at the center of the complaint had her parental rights terminated before HHS’ Office for Civil Rights conducted its investigation. Her appeal to the New Jersey Supreme Court was denied.

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