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National Council on Disability Commends HHS Office of Civil Rights for Enforcement Activity on Behalf of Parents with Disabilities

Friday, December 6, 2019

WASHINGTON – The National Council on Disability (NCD)—an independent federal agency that advises the President and Congress— commends the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Civil Rights (OCR) for its recent review of Oregon’s compliance with federal nondiscrimination laws in the treatment of parents with disabilities in Oregon’s child welfare system.

On Dec. 4, OCR announced that it had entered into a voluntary resolution agreement (VRA) with the Oregon Department of Human Services (ODHS) concerning the treatment of parents with disabilities in ODHS Child Welfare Programs (CWP).

The VRA requires ODHS to comply with disability rights laws during termination of parental rights proceedings; accordingly update its policies and procedures; create a new disability rights training plan; and provide assurances of its compliance with Section 504 and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

OCR initiated a compliance review of ODHS following news reports and a complaint from an advocate alleging that ODHS removed two infant children from a mother and father with disabilities and denied the parents effective and meaningful opportunities to reunite with their children due in significant part to discriminatory assumptions about parents with disabilities.

Following data requests and an on-site investigation of ODHS CWP regional offices, OCR identified systemic deficiencies regarding ODHS CWP’s implementation of its disability rights policies, practices, and procedures to prevent discrimination against parents with disabilities in Oregon’s child welfare system. After OCR conveyed these concerns to ODHS, ODHS expressed willingness to work with OCR to ensure full compliance with its federal civil rights obligations under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and Title II of the ADA.

On a recent call regarding the VRA with representatives of 60 organizations, OCR Director Roger Severino highlighted NCD’s groundbreaking report Rocking the Cradle: Ensuring the Rights of Parents with Disabilities and Their Children as a crucial source of information on this issue. NCD also published a toolkit in collaboration with the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation, called Parenting with a Disability: Know Your Rights.

Both the report and the toolkit are available on the website.

About the National Council on Disability

First established as an advisory council within the Department of Education in 1978, NCD became an independent federal agency in 1984. In 1986, NCD recommended enactment of an Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and drafted the first version of the bill which was introduced in the House and Senate in 1988. Since enactment of the ADA in 1990, NCD has continued to play a leading role in crafting disability policy, and advising the President, Congress and other federal agencies on disability policies, programs, and practices.

An official website of the National Council on Disability