The Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recently issued a joint guidance letter to the local and state child welfare systems, highlighting the requirement of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and demanding them to implement the regulations as mentioned in the act.
The guidance letter aims to ensure that the local and state child welfare systems are aware of their responsibilities to protect the civil rights of both children and families. DOJ and HHS have entered into a partnership in order to help and aid the child welfare agencies, in order to protect and guarantee the well-being of children, and to ensure the compliance of these welfare agencies with federal non-discrimination laws.
DOJ and HHS issued a Technical Assistance file, which highlighted the intersection of child welfare requirements and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act last year. The recent letter issued by the departments focused on the need for frank and productive discussion on how child welfare policies, laws, implicit bias, and practices affect communities of color.
Reports indicate that certain ethnic and racial groups were over-represented in child welfare system, when compared to their number in the general population. The letter also claimed that both departments have investigated language and race access complaints, which resulted in needless removal of children from their own biological families, unnecessary long stay in foster homes, and many more.
Jocelyn Samuels Director of HHS Office for Civil Rights said, “This joint guidance is another step in the right direction to remedy discriminatory practices in child welfare activities. All professionals in state and local child welfare systems have an obligation to understand and adhere to the federal laws that protect the families and children in the communities that they serve. We hope this guidance offers far-reaching strategies for child welfare agencies to address discriminatory practices in their programs and activities.”
HHS Acting Assistant Secretary for Children and Families, Mark Greenberg, said, “It’s crucial to families and children that the decisions made by child welfare agencies are made without intentional or unintended discrimination. We believe this guidance will help agencies better serve children of all backgrounds and provide important protections for families and children.”
Both the DOJ and HHS are responsible for enforcing civil rights related to child welfare agencies in the US, as well as laws regarding federal financial reimbursements. The Department of Justice also ensures reliable and efficient enforcement of the Title VI among federal funding entities.