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The Americans with Disabilities Act and Child Care Centers

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Sometimes families and child-care centers are confused about whether the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) applies to child-care centers. These commonly asked questions about child care centers from the US Department of Justice address this question and several others.

The Justice Department document explains that almost all public, private and home-based child-care centers must comply with the ADA regardless of size. The exception is child-care centers that religious organizations administer (not just on the premises of a religious organization).

Therefore, child-care centers cannot discriminate against your child or you based on disability. Specifically:

  • “Centers cannot exclude children with disabilities from their programs unless their presence would pose a direct threat to the health or safety of others or require a fundamental alteration of the program.
  • Centers have to make reasonable modifications to their policies and practices to integrate children, parents, and guardians with disabilities into their programs unless doing so would constitute a fundamental alteration.
  • Centers must provide appropriate auxiliary aids and services needed for effective communication with children or adults with disabilities when doing so would not constitute an undue burden.
  • Centers must generally make their facilities accessible to persons with disabilities. Existing facilities are subject to the readily achievable standard for barrier removal, while newly constructed facilities and any altered portions of existing facilities must be fully accessible.”

Child-care centers must make an individualized assessment about how they can accommodate a child with a disability. They cannot make decisions based solely on the type of disability, stereotypes, or assumptions about it. Children who pose a direct threat to other children do not have to be accepted; again, that needs to be individually assessed. Centers cannot use cost (for example, increased insurance rates) as a basis for not accepting a child with a disability.

Child-care centers must generally provide accommodations, such as diapering, allowance of service animals and medication administration, for children with disabilities. Centers also must provide reasonable accommodations for parents with disabilities. For example, centers must provide information about your child in a format you can understand if you have a communication-related disability.

We encourage you to refer to the commonly asked questions about child care and the ADA if you would like more information. These are the Mississippi State Department of Health Regulations for Child Care Centers. The third page of the document lists several helpful numbers related to child care. Families as Allies is also happy to support you as you think through the child’s child care and the ADA.

[Photo by Troy T on Unsplash]

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