The Americans With Disabilities Act: What Adoption Agencies Need To Know
The Americans with Disabilities Act [ADA], signed into law on July 26, 1990, prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in employment and in programs and services provided by state and local governments, commercial facilities, and certain types of private agencies. By its specific terms, the ADA applies to all adoption agencies, irrespective of the number of employees. Public adoption agencies are covered under Title II and private adoption agencies are covered under Title III of the Act. The ADA contains important requirements designed to protect the interests of individuals with disabilities -- requirements that may affect the way in which agencies utilize disability-related criteria in the selection of prospective adoptive parents.
This article reviews the non-discrimination mandates of the ADA, discusses who is protected by the Act, and outlines the sanctions for ADA violations. It addresses such questions as:
Can an adoption agency have a policy under which individuals who are blind or deaf are automatically rejected from consideration as adoptive parents for safety reasons?
Can an adoption agency reject an individual who successfully completed a drug rehabilitation program two years ago and is no longer using drugs?
Can an adoption agency refuse to consider as adoptive parents persons who are HIV infected?
The Basic Requirements of the ADA
The ADA prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability. The non-discrimination rule is stated in Title II, which applies to public adoption agencies, as:
No qualified individual with a disability shall, by reason of such disability, be excluded from participation or be denied the benefits of the services, programs, or activities of a public entity, or be subjected to discrimination by any such entity.
In Title III, the rule that applies to private adoption agencies (which are considered "public accommodations" under the ADA) is stated as:
No individual shall be discriminated against on the basis of disability in the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations of any place of public accommodation by any person who owns, leases (or leases to) or operates a place of public accommodation.
The broad principles underlying the non-discrimination rule of the ADA are equal opportunity to participate and equal opportunity to benefit. With regard to public agencies, these principles have long been in place as a result of The Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and the ADA confirms these mandates on public agencies in Title II. The ADA, however, also prohibits, in Title III, disability-based discrimination by certain private entities such as adoption agencies.
Reprinted with the permission of the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute. © 2007 Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute. All rights reserved.
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