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    Troubling reference to people with disabilities in discussion of foster parent fitness

    We are concerned about comments made in the article “Screening, training part of foster system” (Page A1, Aug. 18). Matt Rocheleau lists factors that the state considers when evaluating someone’s fitness to be a foster parent. His list includes family income, which is mentioned in a value-neutral way. He then writes, “Having a criminal record, a physical disability, or mental health condition does not lead to automatic disqualification.”

    Mentioning physical and mental health conditions in this fashion gives them a negative connotation, implying that individuals with these characteristics SHOULD perhaps be automatically disqualified.

    As noted in a report by the National Council on Disability, such blanket assumptions about parents with disabilities are unjustified. Furthermore, what little research exists on this topic indicates that most parents with disabilities do just fine. Suggesting otherwise reinforces negative stereotypes and leaves individuals with disabilities vulnerable to unjustified denial of the opportunity to be foster parents.

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    The Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits the state from making such blanket assumptions, as doing so constitutes discrimination. All prospective foster parents are entitled to an individualized determination of their capacity to provide care, and people with disabilities should be judged on an individual basis as well.

    Dr. Lisa I. Iezzoni, director,

    Mongan Institute for Health Policy

    Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston

    Joanne Nicholson, professor of psychiatry

    Dartmouth Psychiatric Research Center

    The Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth, Hanover, N.H.