‘Stereotypes’ about parents with low IQs can’t be used to place children in foster care, federal settlement says

By Samantha Swindler: For More Info, Go Here…

The Oregon Department of Human Services used stereotypes about parents with intellectual disabilities to remove children from their homes, and must promise to follow federal civil rights law in the future.

Last month, the agency entered into a settlement agreement with the federal Office for Civil Rights over its treatment of parents with disabilities. In the voluntary resolution agreement, DHS pledges to ensure foster care placements are “based on actual risks that pertain to the individual parent and not on mere speculation, generalizations, or stereotypes about individuals with disabilities.”

The Office for Civil Rights initiated a compliance review after The Oregonian/OregonLive reported on the case of Amy Fabbrini and Eric Ziegler of Redmond, whose two young children were placed into foster care shortly after their births, primarily because of the couple’s low IQs.

The Zieglers, now married, had not been accused of abuse, but the state attempted to terminate the couple’s parental rights and make their boys available for adoption. In court, DHS attorneys’ arguments centered on the parents’ cognitive and “executive functioning” skills.

Amy Ziegler’s IQ had tested at 72, Eric Ziegler’s at 66. The average IQ falls between 90 and 110.

The couple complied with parenting classes, supervised visits and psychological evaluations – everything DHS had required, but were unable to regain custody of their sons. In court, the state at times argued the Zieglers asked too many questions, suggesting they didn’t know how to parent. At other times, the state implied they didn’t ask enough questions, trying to show they didn’t understand their cognitive limitations.

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