Nevada Revises Foster Care Regulations to Remove Automatic Exclusion of People Living with HIV
(Las Vegas, NV - July 31, 2014) - In response to an appeal from Lambda Legal, the Division of Child and Family Services (DCFS) of the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services has revised its regulations concerning licensing prospective foster parents to remove a requirement that foster parents be free of a list of communicable diseases that included HIV.
“This change in the Nevada Administrative Code expands the pool of loving homes willing and able to take in foster children,” said Scott Schoettes, Senior Attorney and HIV Project National Director for Lambda Legal. “Nevada DCFS recognized that its exclusion of people living with HIV from being foster parents was unsupported by medical science and discriminatory, and we are gratified that the department moved so quickly to update its regulations.”
At the end of last year, Lambda Legal submitted a petition to DCFS on behalf of a gay married couple who were told the HIV status of one partner precluded their serving as foster parents. The petition, joined by Aid for AIDS Nevada (AFAN) and Children’s Advocacy Alliance (CAA), called for DCFS to remove immediately HIV and AIDS from the list of communicable diseases that prevent an individual or couple from receiving a foster care license and to consider removal of other diseases that also are not transmitted via household contact. Through the cooperative process that ensued, DCFS decided to remove any reference to communicable diseases from the regulations pertaining to foster care and instead to require that “[e]ach foster parent must be in sufficiently good physical and mental health, and be physically and emotionally capable, to provide the necessary care to children.”
“We at the Division of Child Family Services were pleased to collaborate with Lambda Legal on this important regulation change,” said Jill Marano, Deputy Administrator, DCFS. “We look forward to opening our doors for more qualified, caring foster parents who can meet the needs of our children and youth. We believe this change benefits not only the children and youth in our state, but is an important step to ensuring equality for all citizens in Nevada.”
The revised regulations allow for DCFS to require a physical or psychological examination, but only if there is reason to believe a foster parent may not be physically or emotionally capable of meeting the needs of a foster child or there is a legitimate reason to believe the health of the foster child may be in jeopardy.
“This is a welcome revision that brings Nevada into agreement with the vast majority of states whose licensing requirements make no mention of a prospective foster parent’s HIV status,” said CAA Executive Director Denise Tanata Ashby. “More importantly, it opens up wonderful and loving homes to the long list of Nevada children in need of safe and nurturing foster placements.”
Lambda Legal attorneys Scott A. Schoettes and M. Currey Cook, Youth in Out-of-Home Care Project National Director, worked with Nevada DCFS on revising the regulations, joined by Frank Broccolo, Joshua Hill, David Carpenter, Francis Lam, Collin Wedel and Ryan Fant from Sidley Austin LLP and the James M. Davis Law Office.