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Providing Services to Individuals with Disabilities

On June 1, 2005, the New Jersey Division of Family Development (DFD), in the Department of Human Services, issued a comprehensive program directive (DFDI No. 05-6-1/GAPI No. 05-6-1), which applies to all assistance programs administered by county and municipal welfare agencies and boards of social services, including Work First New Jersey/Temporary Aid to Needy Families, General Assistance, food stamps, child support enforcement, child care centers, and One-Stop Career Centers. The program instructions apply the Americans with Disabilities Act, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination to these DFD programs.

DFD's new guidelines require that local agencies ensure equal access to programs through the provision of appropriate services to people with disabilities; modify policies, practices, and procedures when necessary to ensure equal opportunity for people with disabilities unless doing so would result in a fundamental alteration or undue burden to the program; adopt nondiscriminatory methods of administration; furnish reasonable accommodations if necessary to afford individuals with a disability an equal opportunity to participate in services, programs, and activities; ensure effective communication; screen applicants and participants for disabilities; and have a grievance procedure for people denied a reasonable accommodation.

"I think this is a major achievement," says Cary LaCheen of the Welfare Law Center. The Welfare Law Center, the Community Health Law Project, and Legal Services of New Jersey assisted DFD with development of the policy instructions over the last two years. That work began with comments on the proposed welfare regulations that were readopted on June 16, 2003, and continued with meetings at DFD on numerous drafts of the instructions before they became final.

"Now comes the hard part," says Stu Weiner of CHLP: "training county and municipal agency management and front-line staff to implement these principles." On October 24 and 25, 2005, Weiner, LaCheen, and Maura Sanders and Dan Florio, attorneys with Legal Services of New Jersey, offered training to over 350 county welfare workers on DFD's new guildelines. For more information on the policy guidance, call Stu Weiner at 609-392-5553 or e-mail him at Sweiner@chlp.org.

See more at: DFD Program Instruction

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