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Justice Obtains First Settlement on Care of Disabled Children

December 6, 1995

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Cerebral palsy put 4-year-old Belinda Brock into leg braces, but workers at a northern Wisconsin child care center were afraid to take her out of them for her daily nap.

Believing the Sunshine Child Center was violating her daughter’s rights by refusing to remove the braces and by keeping her with younger children because she wore diapers, her mother, Brenda, went to the Justice Department.

And after two years, the department that enforces the Americans with Disabilities Act barring discrimination against the disabled reached its first settlement under the law Tuesday with a child care facility.

Among a handful of new policies agreed to by the center in Gillett, Wis., workers will be taught how to put on and remove leg braces. Children like Belinda also will not be kept with younger kids because they wear diapers.

``Often, simple measures are all that are needed to integrate a child with a disability into society,″ said Assistant Attorney General Deval Patrick, head of the department’s civil rights division.

Sara Streblow, the center’s attorney, estimated the center would have to spend no more than $200 to comply with the agreement.

She said the workers were concerned about hurting Belinda because they were not familiar with handling leg braces, and had Mrs. Brock to travel several blocks from work to handle them each day, she said.

Under the settlement, the staff will be trained in such tasks by the parents of disabled children, who will sign agreements releasing the center from legal liability, Ms. Streblow said.

The workers had changed Belinda’s diaper in the younger children’s section because it had a private area for that purpose ``and they didn’t want her to be teased,″ Mrs. Streblow said. Under the agreement, diapers can still be changed in private, but children cannot be put in an age group different from their own for that reason.

Among other provisions of the settlement, the center will offer to readmit Belinda, now 6. She was removed by her mother. It also will design a new one-story facility it hopes to complete by June 1997 with Justice Department assistance so it is fully accessible for the disabled.

Belinda’s mother was pleased with the outcome, but won’t re-enroll her daughter.

``Others will have the opportunity for the center to care for disabled kids,″ she said. ``My daughter is a normal person and there’s no reason she should have been treated any different from anybody else.″

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