On September 4, 2012, after an extensive investigation performed by its Civil Rights’ Division, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) found that the State of Florida has been violating the rights of children with disabilities by unnecessarily confining them to nursing facilities where they are segregated from their families and communities.
Title II of the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires public entities to provide services to individuals with disabilities in the most integrated setting appropriate to their needs. Yet, despite the fact that the State’s service system already has structures in place to provide in-home and community-based care, the State continues to rely on placing children with disabilities in nursing facilities for institutional care. By doing so, the State violates these children’s civil rights; hinders their educational, social and recreational development; and prevents them from developing bonds with family.
During the investigation, DOJ found that many of the families of children who had been confined to nursing facilities were unable to visit their children on a regular basis and wanted their children either moved home or to community-based settings. In some cases, even though a physician had determined that the child’s needs could be met at home, the State denied this care.
The state of Florida must now take the necessary steps to resolve the deficiencies in their policies, as well as add services and programs to accommodate these children. The State must also administer a new plan that will guarantee fair and necessary benefits to these individuals, as well as begin transitions for children who are able to return to their homes and community life. For children who are unable to live at home with their families, the State must ensure that facilities take the necessary measures to fully evaluate and fulfill their needs.