Last month, Disability Rights Washington (DRW) sent a letter to Secretary Ross Hunter about how the Department of Children Youth and Families (DCYF) has been discriminating against parents with disabilities. In the letter, DRW talks about complaints DRW has made to the U.S. Department of Justice and includes three more examples of how DCYF’s discriminatory practices are separating families, possibly forever. DRW asked Secretary Hunter to work with parents and stakeholders to develop a plan for changing how DCYF treats parents with disabilities, modeled after a recent agreement between the State of Oregon and the U.S. Health and Human Services Office of Civil Rights.

However, due to the Coronavirus crisis, the Department has not responded to DRW’s request. DRW has asked DCYF to ensure parents with disabilities are not placed at even greater risk of permanently losing their children as a result of Coronavirus policies that prohibit in-person visitations. Losing the ability to spend in-person time with their children will likely be even more devastating to parents with disabilities who need in-person visits to gain, maintain, and demonstrate the parenting skills they have to show in order for DCYF to return their children. In addition, DRW was pleased to sign onto a letter by the King County Department of Public Defense asking Governor Inslee to clarify Proclamation 20-33 to allow case-by-case determinations of whether in person visits are safe and appropriate, instead of making a blanket visitation bar that advocates argue will be harmful to many children and families. 

“Now, perhaps more than ever,” says DRW Executive Director Mark Stroh, “families need DCYF to help them stay together instead of separating them based on unfounded fears and prejudices about disabled parents’ capacities to love and care for their own children.”