The US District Court for the Southern District of Florida ruled on July 14 that the state violated the Americans with Disabilities Act by institutionalizing disabled children.
In a press release from the US Department of Justice, the court found that children who were put in nursing facilities have families who "overwhelmingly want their children to live at home, but that they have not been given meaningful options other than institutional placement."
It also wrote that children were "unnecessarily institutionalized" in care homes.
The decision has been a long time coming. According to the release, it came "after nearly a decade of litigation" and "marks a major turning point in the treatment of children with disabilities."
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) rules that those with disabilities must live in the best possible integrated community. The ADA "bans the unnecessary segregation of people with disabilities" and requires that disabled children are placed "in the most integrated setting appropriate to the needs of qualified individuals."
Under Supreme Court decision Olmstead v. L.C., it was found that "unjustified segregation of persons with disabilities constitutes discrimination" and violates the ADA.
The initial suit was filed in 2013 "on behalf of two hundred children with disabilities allegedly unnecessarily segregated from their communities."
Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, said, "This is a momentous decision impacting hundreds of vulnerable children and their families."
"The Civil Rights Division is strongly committed to ensuring that people with disabilities are not isolated from society but are fully integrated into their communities,” Clarke continued.
To remedy the issue, Florida must now take steps to ensure children who are disabled have access to the medical services they need to live in their homes and integrated within their own communities.
The press release said that all applicable children living in care homes will have a transition plan to return to their families so long as the parents or guardians are not opposed.
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