A local couple is speaking out after they feel they were unfairly discriminated against during the process of becoming foster parents. On this edition of Pronews 7 Investigates: Protection or Discrimination- A Family Denied, we spoke with the Yearwood family about why they were denied as foster parents by the state.
The Yearwoodâ??s are a typical newlywed couple who decided this year that they wanted to become foster parents, but since they began the process of becoming a foster home, theyâ??ve encountered a major roadblock.
The Yearwood family claimed that they began the long process of becoming foster parents, and were never informed that their disabilities would be an issue until now. They received a rejection letter from the state on July 14th, 2014 that listed a number of reasons why they would not be approved by the state as a foster home.
â??The state said we are not going to give you a child, we are going to close your home because you do not drive, and we donâ??t drive because weâ??re legally blind and they donâ??t give driverâ??s licenses to blind people,â?? said Mary Yearwood.
The Yearwoodâ??s said that they feel discriminated against because of their blindness and that the state is making assumptions about their ability to be good foster parents.
â??This is a state agency and they need to realize that they cannot discriminate based on assumptions without proof,â?? said Brian Yearwood.
At least once placement agency we spoke to said that transportation is a critical part of fostering. Keith Howard of Arrow Child & Family Ministries said that they have to make sure that a foster childâ??s needs are satisfied by the prospective foster family.
â??At our agency, part of our contract is that our foster parents will transport children to where they need to go, and thatâ??s something that we have to follow strongly,â?? said Keith Howard. â??When weâ??re evaluating families, we have to determine if they be able to meet the needs of this child from a transportation standpoint.â??
Pronews 7 also reached out to the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) who said while thereâ??s no explicit rule that requires foster parents to drive, that transportation is necessary for fostering. In a statement released by Paul Zimmerman, a Media Specialist for DFPS, the agency said:
â??We inform prospective foster/adoptive parents what is expected of them in order to meet the needs of foster children.â?? â??DFPS foster children deserve complete protection and safety and decisions are made their best interest in mind.â??
DFPS also gave Pronews 7 a copy of the form that all prospective foster parents receive during foster training and it clearly states that they are expected to provide transportation.
However, the Council for the Blind said that this situation may be based on the public agencyâ??s lack of understanding of how people with visual impairments live their lives.
â??It would be so beneficial for someone considering such a case to really visit with someone who has lived with visual impairments so they can actually see how they operate on a daily basis,â?? said Kenneth Simeon Senior, of the Texas Council for the Blind.
While the Yearwoodâ??s acknowledge that the transportation issue was not the only issue on their foster parent application, they feel that they are more than qualified to be foster parents, and that the stateâ??s policies are preventing them from providing a loving home.
â??Many times in this process, weâ??ve heard itâ??s all about protecting our children, but I do not believe that our disability qualifies us as dangerous,â?? said Mary Yearwood.
On part two of Pronews 7 Investigates: Protection or Discrimination- A Family denied, weâ??ll take a closer look at the stateâ??s rationale behind their denial, to see if they are truly trying to act in the best interest of children, or if this is just another case of discrimination against the disabled.