Questions and Answers About the Americans with Disabilities Act


All family child care providers are required to abide by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), passed by Congress in 1990.

Here are some questions I recently received about this law:

Can I charge more for a child with special needs, considering that I charge more for infants?

No. The ADA prohibits discrimination against children or parents with disabilities. This means you cannot charge more to a special needs child. You can charge more for infants because infants are not in a legally protected class of people. In other words, you cannot discriminate against people because of their race, sex, age, religion, ethnic background, national origin or disability. Some states and local governments also prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation, marital status and other categories. Age discrimination applies to persons aged 40 and older.

If I don’t feel I can provide appropriate care for a child with special needs can I legally terminate the child?

Not if it is based only on your feelings. This doesn’t mean you have to care for every child who has a disability. The ADA law says you must do what is “reasonable” to provide accommodations to children with disabilities. If the only way you can provide care would create an “undue burden” then you don’t have to provide care. Undue burden means a “significant difficulty or expense.” But, it’s not enough to terminate care based solely on your feelings.

If I feel a child will not fit into my program because of a special need, how do I get around that?

You must find out how you can provide appropriate care for the child. For example, if the child is in a wheelchair and it would cost you $200 to install a temporary ramp to get into your home, you would have to do it because that is not a significant expense. Spending $5,000 would be a significant expense and you can refuse the child. The vast majority of providers care for children with disabilities without incident.

If I feel that I’m not qualified to care for a child with a disability, may I just say no? I’m concerned about the safety of the child when a child might throw chairs, hurt me or other children, or flee my home.

You are right that your first responsibility is keeping all the children safe in your program. If a child with a disability is creating a safety issue, you must act. You can tell the parent the child cannot come back until you have figured out a way to provide safe, appropriate care for the child. But, then you must explore what can be done so you can provider care for this child and all the other children. Maybe it means taking some training to know how to better handle this child. If training would solve the problem, you’d have to take the training.

Let’s say the only way to keep everyone safe is to have another adult with the child at all times. If so, you would be required to find out if any volunteers can come in to help. If there are no volunteers then you need to find out what it would cost to hire someone for enough hours a week so everyone would be safe. If hiring someone would create a “significant” expense, then you can tell the parent you cannot afford to do this. You cannot ask the parent to pay for this additional adult. If the parent volunteers to pay, you must provide the care.
“Your child is causing injuries to other children and is not adjusting to the social environment of my program.” Is this grounds for dismissal?

Not until you have done the research to find out what would need to happen to provide appropriate care. In other words, you can’t just say no to a child with disabilities without first having found out what the solution would be so that you could provide care. If the only solution to providing care would create an “undue burden” then you don’t have to provide the care.

These questions were asked of me during a recent webinar I did sponsored by the Early Childhood Investigations Webinars.

I’ve written a previous article: The Americans with Disabilities Act and Family Child Care

Tom Copeland –

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Legal & InsuranceFor more information see my book Family Child Care Legal & Insurance Guide.

Categories: Legal, Legal & Insurance

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