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45 Years of Impact Spotlight

Fighting Against Discrimination in Provision of Government Services: Child Welfare

Title II of the ADA prohibits disability-based discrimination and guarantees individuals with disabilities the right to equal opportunities and access in the provision government services. In addition, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act prohibits disability-based discrimination by recipients of federal financial assistance.

DRP has worked to enforce Title II’s and Section 504’s protections by fighting discrimination in the provision of child welfare services.

In 2017, DRP filed a class action lawsuit, S.R., et al. v. DHS, et al., alleging the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services (“DHS”) failed to assure that class members have non-discriminatory access to mental health services in the most integrated settings appropriate to their needs, in violation of Title II and Section 504. In April 2018, the Court certified this case to proceed on behalf of a class defined as “all Pennsylvania children and youth under the age of 21 who, now or in the future, are adjudicated dependent and have diagnosed mental health disabilities.” This case is still being litigated today.

In 2018, DRP filed Doxzon v. City of Philadelphia, on behalf of a 19-year-old dependent youth with physical and mental health disabilities. The lawsuit sought to compel the City of Philadelphia to provide her with appropriate services in the community. The lawsuit alleged that, among other things, the City failed to operate its services and programs in such a way as to be accessible to and usable by people with disabilities in violation of Title II and Section 504. Due to a lack of wheelchair accessible community homes, the plaintiff was unnecessarily institutionalized in segregated settings on multiple occasions over the course of 7 years. After DRP filed a motion for preliminary injunction, the parties entered a stipulation that the City will take all steps to place our client in a community placement and assist her with enrollment in public school. The case eventually settled, and the City agreed to help our client maintain and apply for funding for community support services.

In Simmons v. City of Philadelphia, DRP filed a lawsuit on behalf of a 17-year-old dependent girl with paraplegia, alleging that the City violated Title II of the ADA because there were no teen mother/baby programs that were accessible to individuals, like the client, who use a wheelchair for mobility.  After we filed a motion for a preliminary injunction, the City identified an accessible program in New Jersey that was satisfactory to the client.

In Kathy L. v. County of Delaware, DRP filed a Title II ADA class action lawsuit challenging Delaware County’s failure to provide appropriate services to parents with intellectual disabilities to prevent the removal of the county Children and Youth Services (“CYS”) agency. The lawsuit resulted in a settlement that required the county to establish a comprehensive, cooperative arrangement between its Office of Intellectual Disabilities and the CYS agency to identify parents with intellectual disabilities, assess their needs, refer them to appropriate agencies for services, and provide services (including, if appropriate, residential services) necessary to keep families together.