Both California and Federal law provide protections against discrimination of caregiver and foster youth on the basis of 1) race, color or national origin (Federal law) and 2) actual or perceived race, ethnic group identification, ancestry, national origin, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, mental or physical disability, or HIV status.
Title VI of the Civil Rights Act & the Multiethnic Placement Act
Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Public Law 88-352) declares that discrimination on the grounds of race, color, or national origin (RCNO) shall not occur in connection with programs and activities receiving Federal financial assistance.
The Multiethnic Placement Act (MEPA) of 1994 (Public Law 103-382) amends Title IV-E of the Social Security Act to prohibit agencies and other entities that receive Federal funding from denying or delaying a child's foster care or adoptive placement and Title IV-B to prohibit denying any individual opportunity to become a foster or adoptive parent on the basis of the child's or the prospective parent's race, color, or national origin (“RCNO”), and makes agency failure to comply a violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act. MEPA was amended by Section 1808(c) of the Small Business Job Protection Act of 1996.
“The Multiethnic Placement Act applies to ALL placements. If an appropriate placement for a child exists, an agency MAY NOT:
- Refuse to place a child with a prospective parent because the parent’s RCNO is different than the child’s RCNO.
- Fail to place a child with a prospective parent because the parent or the child is a specific RCNO.
- Remove a child from a prospective parent because the parent or child is a specific RCNO.
- Refuse to conduct a home study because the parent or child is a specific RCNO.
- Use “culture” to replace or serve as a proxy for routinely considering RCNO.”
“An agency MAY NOT consider or honor the requests of parents or legal guardians to place their child with foster or adoptive parents of a specific RCNO. This applies to birth parents who are considering placing an infant for adoption.”
“The agency MAY individually assess the child’s needs. Consideration of RCNO is assessed under a strict scrutiny standard. Advancing the best interests of a particular child, individually assessed, is the only compelling interest that satisfied the strict scrutiny standard.”
“In conducting diligent recruitment activities, the agency:
- MUST allow prospective parents to participate in general recruitment activities irrespective of RCNO.
- MUST accept applications from prospective parents who are not from one of the communities on which the agency currently is focusing its efforts and must include them in general recruitment activities.
- MUST accept applications from prospective parents who express interest in providing care to a child when race or ethnicity does not match their own.”
Excerpts from training PowerPoint presentation “Ensuring the Best Interests of Children Through Compliance with the Multiethnic Placement Act of 1994, as amended, and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prepared by U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Office of Civil Rights.
Both the Office of Civil Rights and Administration for Children and Families work together to ensure that state child welfare polices, procedures and practices do not discriminate against children or prospective parents on the basis of race, color, or national origin. ACF assists states in complying with MEPA and issues penalties for violations of MEPA. OCR investigates individual complaints. Where compliance can not be secured through voluntary means, OCR may initiate proceedings to terminate Federal financial assistance or refer a case to the Department of Justice.
Filing a Complaint Under Title VI and MEPA
The Office of Civil Rights (OCR) enforces MEPA/Section 1808(c) and Title VI. Individuals who believe that they or someone else may have been discriminated against in violation of these laws may file a complaint. For more information, go to OCR's page on how to file a civil rights complaint, and FAQs.
Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA)
The Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 (ICWA), Public Law 95-608 governs the removal and out-of-home placement of American Indian Children. ICWA was passed in response to concerns about the large number of Indian children who were being removed from their families and Tribes and the failure of States to recognize the culture and tribal relations of Indian people. ICWA, in part, creates procedural protections and imposes substantive standards on the removal, placement, termination of parental rights and consent to adoption of children who are members of or are eligible for membership in an Indian tribe.
ICWA is not in conflict with the Multiethnic Placement Act (MEPA). Congress recognized the unique political relationship that children have with their tribal governments and it is this connection that forms the basis for Indian children being given particular protections under ICWA.
For more information about ICWA, go to our ICWA page.
For more information on how ICWA applies to a probate guardianship, see our Probate Guardianship page.
As explained above, Title VI and MEPA address discrimination on the basis of race, color or national origin (RCNO); however, they do not address discrimination on the basis of culture, religion, age, sexual orientation, gender, or any other characteristic. The California Foster Care Non-Discrimination Act prohibits discrimination in the California foster care system on the basis of actual or perceived race, ethnic group identification, ancestry, national origin, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, mental or physical disability, or HIV status. It also mandates initial and ongoing training for all group home administrators, foster parents, and department licensing personnel.
California law provides:
No agency or entity that receives any state assistance and is involved in foster care placements may do either of the following: (A) Deny to any person the opportunity to become a foster parent on the basis of the race, color or national origin of the person or the child involved, or (B) Delay or deny the placement of any child into foster care on the basis of the race, color, or national origin of the foster parent or the child involved. Family Code § 7950(a)(2).
All foster children and all adults engaged in the provision of care and services to foster children have a right to fair and equal access to all available services, placement, care, treatment and benefits. Welfare and Institutions Code (WIC) §§ 16001.9(a)(22), 16013(a). And they may not be denied the benefits of any program or activity conducted by the state of California or any state agency based on race, national origin, ethnic group identification, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, color, or disability. Government Code § 11135 (a)
All foster children and all adults engaged in the provision of care and services to foster children have a right not to be subjected to discrimination or harassment on the basis actual or perceived race, ethnic group identification, ancestry, national origin, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, mental or physical disability, or HIV status. WIC §§ 16001.9(a)(22), 16013(a) .
All group home administrators, foster parents, and department licensing personnel must receive initial and ongoing training on the right of a foster child to have fair and equal access to all available services and to not be subjected to harassment or discrimination based on their actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. Health & Safety Code § 1522.41(c)(1)(H) (Failure to comply with this section shall constitute cause for revocation of the license of the facility); Health & Safety Code § 1522.41(b)(3); § 1529.2(b)(3)(F).; § 1529.2(b)(4)(F); § 1563(c)(5).
All community college districts that provide orientation and training to relative caregivers must make available to relative and extended family caregivers orientation and training courses that cover the right of a foster child to have fair and equal access to all available services, placement, care, treatment, and benefits and the right of foster youth not to be subjected to discrimination or harassment on the basis of actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. WIC § 16003(a)(1).
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