November 13, 2020
HHS OCR Provides Technical Assistance to Ensure New Jersey Department of Children and Families Protect Parents with Disabilities from Discrimination
Today, the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announces that it has provided technical assistance to the New Jersey Department of Children and Families (DCF) to ensure that parents with disabilities are protected from discrimination in DCF’s Division of Child Protection and Permanency (DCPP) programs.
OCR received a complaint alleging DCPP failed to provide modified support services and accommodations necessary for a young mother with an intellectual disability to have an effective and meaningful opportunity to reunite with her young child. The complaint alleged that, for more than three years, DCPP failed to provide an individualized assessment to identify the mother’s disability-related needs and to provide her with modified reunification services. Prior to OCR’s investigation, the mother’s parental rights were terminated and she filed an appeal of the termination order. The New Jersey Supreme Court denied the mother’s appeal from the order terminating her parental rights.
Following OCR’s investigation, DCF took affirmative steps to ensure that parents with disabilities have effective and meaningful opportunities to participate in, and benefit from, DCPP’s child welfare program. DCF affirmed its commitment to inclusivity and reasonable accommodations in the provision of child welfare services, provided notices informing persons with disabilities of their rights to a reasonable accommodation or modification, and developed new disability rights training. DCF is also drafting regulations to codify an administrative order, which commits it to inclusivity and reasonable accommodations in the provision of services to satisfy the requirements of the ADA, in the children and family regulations of the New Jersey Regulatory Code. OCR identified and addressed concerns to further assist DCF in understanding the agency’s responsibilities under Section 504 and the ADA.
“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. Our civil rights laws reflect the fundamental principle that we are all created with equal dignity and worth.” – OCR Director Roger Severino
For more information about discrimination on the basis of disability, visit www.hhs.gov/civil-rights/for-individuals/disability.
To learn more about protections from discrimination in the child welfare system, visit www.hhs.gov/civil-rights/for-individuals/special-topics/adoption
To learn more about HHS OCR, as well as find information on filing a complaint, visit us at https://www.hhs.gov/civil-rights
Follow HHS OCR on Twitter @HHSOCR.