Federal and state laws and regulations support the rights of children and youth experiencing disabilities and other special needs to be included in public and private programs. They apply to most child care, early education and out-of-school settings. Complying with these laws and regulations is seldom difficult. Their requirements are consistent with the policies and practices found in high quality programs. Two concepts capture the spirit of these laws and regulations:
- Seeing each person as an individual; and,
- Making reasonable, respectful and individualized accommodations when they are needed.
This page provides basic details about
- Americans with Disabilities Act
- Section 504
- Office of Child Care regulations for child care providers
The United States Congress passed the ADA in 1990. The law states that individuals with disabilities have the same right to public and private services as all Americans. As services that are open to the public, most child care providers must comply with the ADA. This includes centers, family child care, preschool and out-of-school time programs.
Here are a few key points about the ADA and child care:
- Child care providers must make reasonable accommodations and modifications when these are needed to serve children with disabilities. “Reasonable” means accommodations would not place an undue burden on the program and would not require a fundamental alteration of the program. Modifications can be as simple as changing policies or practices, making sure that physical barriers are removed, training staff, or providing adaptive equipment.
- Centers must provide appropriate auxiliary aids when necessary for access and participation, unless this would constitute an undue burden or fundamental alteration to the program. Auxiliary aids may include large print books, basic sign language, or a sign language interpreter.
- Providers cannot exclude a child from their settings unless the child’s presence would pose a direct threat to the health and safety of the child or the other children. This must be objectively evaluated and documented on an individual basis. It cannot be based upon personal assumptions, impressions or a specific diagnosis or type of disability.
- Providers cannot charge a higher fee or add charges solely for children with disabilities or other special needs. Any fees or additional charges must apply equally to children with and without disabilities.
You’ll find more information about the ADA at these sites:
- Child Care and the Americans with Disabilities Act: Opportunities and Resources for Child Care Providers and Families. A helpful booklet from Washington State that offers information and a list of resources.
- DBTAC Rocky Mountain ADA Center. Information and on-line videos about child care and the ADA. This is one of 10 regional centers providing ADA information and technical assistance. The Rocky Mountain Center offers a variety of helpful materials related to child care.
- The Child Care Law Center. The center offers ADA and child care information in English, Spanish and Chinese. Some materials are downloadable. Others are available for purchase.
- Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Information for Child Care Providers. A brief overview of the ADA and child care on the Oregon Office of Child Care’s website. The overview was written by staff of Disability Rights Oregon.
- The United States Department of Justice Commonly Asked Questions about Child Care and the American’s With Disabilities Act.
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 is federal legislation designed to protect the civil rights of individuals with disabilities. Section 504 applies to child care settings that receive federal funds, such as USDA food assistance or state child care subsidies.
Oregon Child Care Rules and Regulations
The Oregon Department of Education Office of Child Care licenses and certifies child care centers and family child care providers.
Section 414-300-0400 of Oregon’s Administrative Rules applies to certified child care centers. Section 414-350-0060 applies to certified family child care homes. Under “Enrollment,” both sets of rules state:
(3) As required by state and federal civil rights laws and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the center shall not discriminate against any child on the basis of race, religion, color, national origin, gender, marital status of parent, or because of a need for special care.
(a) Refusal by the operator to care for a child with a need for special care because of lack of related skills and degree of competence, or because of structural barriers in the center, shall not in itself establish a prima facie case of discrimination. The decision to enroll/not enroll a child shall be made on an individual basis after the child’s child care needs have been assessed using information from parents and professionals who are knowledgeable about the specific disability. The operator shall record the assessment that was made for each child with special needs.
(b) If a child with special needs is enrolled who needs a specific plan for caring for that child, such a plan shall be developed in writing between center staff, parent(s), and if necessary, outside specialists. All staff who come in contact with that child shall be fully aware of the plan.
The rules also describe types of information certified providers must obtain from parents in writing. This means parents and providers share responsibility for exchanging information about safe, appropriate and healthy care. Information on the list applies to all children. Examples from the list include: “Child’s way of communicating and being comforted” and “Developmental and health history of any problems that could affect the child’s participation in child care.”