While we have laws protecting people with disabilities from discrimination when it comes to employment, housing, education and public services, there really is nothing to protect their rights as parents.
In Colorado, families are being torn apart because a person’s disability is being used against them in custody case or when they’re seeking adoption or when they’re seeking foster care. In the Freedom Resource Center service area, we have seen social services discriminate against parents with disabilities who are pregnant and/or have given birth to a child. Social Services has threatened to take newborn children away from the parent because the parent has a disability.
Removal rates where parents have a psychiatric disability have been found to be as high as 70 percent to 80 percent; where the parent has an intellectual disability, 40 percent to 80 percent. In families where the parental disability is physical, 13 percent have reported discriminatory treatment in custody cases. Parents who are deaf or blind report extremely high rates of child removal and loss of parental rights. Parents with disabilities are more likely to lose custody of their children after divorce, have more difficulty in accessing reproductive health care, and face significant barriers to adopting children.
The fundamental right to parent without interference is protected by the U.S. Constitution and balanced by the judicially recognized power of the state to interfere to protect the well-being of its children. Unfortunately these rules have not been objectively or justly applied to parents with disabilities.
To read about the Colorado’s discrimination experience, http://denver.cbslocal.com/2018/02/20/bill-protect-parents-disabilities/
If you want to learn more about ensuring the rights of parents with disabilities and their children, https://www.ncd.gov/publications/2012/Sep272012
[image description: a male father is sitting in a wheelchair hold the tire swing his two children are standing on.]