Oregon to change policy after losing parental rights fight

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Oregon officials who attempted to end the parental rights of a couple because of the parents' low IQs have reached an agreement with U.S. officials requiring the state follow federal civil rights laws.

The Oregonian/OregonLive reports that the Oregon Department of Human Services reached the agreement last month with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

U.S. officials say Oregon officials removed the children from Amy Ziegler and Eric Ziegler shortly after their births. Eric Ziegler's IQ tested at 66, and Amy Ziegler's at 73. The average IQ is between 90 and 110.

Officials say the couple complied with requirements outlined by Oregon that included parenting classes, supervised visits and psychological evaluations but couldn't regain custody of their sons.

A judge last year awarded custody of both boys to the Zieglers, and both boys continue living with their parents.

“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 Roger Severino, director of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Office for Civil Rights. "Parents with intellectual or other disabilities should not be presumed to be unable to care for their own children."

U.S. officials noted that problems at the Oregon Department of Human Services appeared to extend beyond the case involving the Zieglers and began investigating, finding “systemic deficiencies” concerning disability rights policies.

That led to the agreement where Oregon officials agreed to make sure that parents with disabilities get an equal chance as parents without disabilities to reunite their families.

Oregon officials are also required to change procedures to avoid discrimination, and designate an employee to oversee compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Jake Sunderland of the Oregon Department of Human Services didn't return a call from The Associated Press on Saturday.