Faces of the ADA
Jose and Lynn Alvarez -- "The ... ADA helped us and will prevent others like Jeremy from going through such an ordeal."
Finding reliable, affordable child care is a challenge for all working parents in this country. Like many parents, Jose and Lynn Alvarez have to work full time to make ends meet. When they found what they thought was the ideal pre-school for their four year old son Jeremy, they were ecstatic. After visiting several pre-schools in the area, the Alvarez family chose Fountainhead Child Care Center. It seemed to be perfect - they liked the teachers, the part-day schedules, and it was very close to Jeremys grandparents home. They could pick him up in the afternoon and care for him until the evening, which helped to minimize child care expenses and allowed both Jose and Lynn to continue working. Soon after placing Jeremys name on the waiting list, the school told his parents there would be a space for him in about six weeks. Like parents everywhere, hearing this news brought a sigh of relief.
Jeremy has asthma. He takes medicine twice a day at home and uses an albuterol inhaler if he starts wheezing or gets short of breath. Jeremy carries his inhaler with him all the time and is able to use it himself with minimal supervision. When Fountainhead learned this, the school told Mrs. Alvarez that Jeremy could not attend because of a "no medications" on school grounds policy - children who needed any kind of medicine with them during the day could not attend Fountainhead School.
Fountainhead refused to modify the "no medications" policy. If Jeremy experienced an asthma attack during the school day, he would have to wait until his parents or grandparents were able to get to the school with his inhaler. The Alvarezes were left with two choices - they could either send Jeremy to school without his inhaler, which was unsafe, or not enroll him at all.
The Alvarezes filed an ADA lawsuit and the Department of Justice submitted a brief in support of them, arguing that the minimal monitoring and supervision they requested would be reasonable and not fundamentally different from the responsibilities that child care providers have for the safety and well-being of all their students. The district court agreed and ordered Fountainhead to modify its "no medications" policy and allow Jeremy to attend school with his inhaler. The court also ordered Fountainhead to provide a one hour training session for its staff on the nature of asthma and how to supervise children who use inhalers.
Before learning abut the ADA, the Alvarezes were worried that Jeremy would not be able to go to the child care center because no one would take their problem seriously.
Mrs. Alvarez said "I was really happy that the ADA was there and that the Department of Justice thought what happened to Jeremy and to us was important enough to get involved. This case helped us and will prevent others like Jeremy from going through such an ordeal."
Now, Jeremy and other children wont be excluded from day care just because they have asthma. Accessible child care frees parents from being forced to choose between keeping their jobs to provide for their families or caring for their children.
July 27, 2000