Oregon DHS Under Federal Scrutiny for Parental Rights Debacle

The Oregon Department of Human Services has entered a voluntary resolution agreement with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services regarding its treatment of parents with below average IQ scores. The agreement was announced on December 4 by the HHS Office for Civil Rights.   

An OCR investigation, prompted by the case of Amy Fabbrini and Eric Ziegler of Redmond, found “systemic deficiencies” within the DHS Child Welfare Program.   

On two separate occasions, Fabbrini and Ziegler’s children were taken into protective custody by DHS not long after birth: first their son Christopher in 2013, and then again in 2017 with their second son Hunter.  

DHS cited “limited cognitive abilities that interfere with (their) ability to safely parent the child.” Fabbrini and Ziegler possess IQs of 72 and 66 respectively, well below the average range of 90 – 110.  

Their children were returned to them in 2018 by Judge Bethany Flint of Deschutes County, after a lengthy and demeaning trial.  

The agreement between the OCR and the DHS was struck in November. According to an OCR press release, it requires the DHS “to comply with disability rights laws with respect to termination of parental rights, update its policies and procedures, create a new disability rights training plan, and provide assurances of its compliance with Section 504 and Title II.”  

“A mother’s and father’s love can overcome a multitude of challenges, and a state should only remove children from their parents based on actual evidence of abuse or neglect, not stereotypes,” said OCR Director Roger Severino. “Parents with intellectual or other disabilities should not be presumed to be unable to care for their own children.”   

By Brandon Urey