The National Council on Disability report, “Rocking the Cradle: Ensuring the Rights of Parents with Disabilities and Their Children,” has outlined 20 findings and 50 recommendations on removing discriminatory barriers to raising families as people with disabilities from a range of federal agencies – everything from HUD to the entire family law system.
This in-depth report concludes that, “the legal system is not protecting the rights of parents with disabilities and their children,” and that, “fully two-thirds of dependency statutes allow the court to reach the determination that a parent is unfit…on the basis of the parent’s disability.” This is an outrageous violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act that leaves in its wake a policy of destroying families and a legacy of trauma on both parents with disabilities, and their children.
This is why NCIL is renewing our efforts to recruit members for the NCIL Parents with Disabilities Rights Task Force. We encourage people to join the committee call on Jan 30th to learn more and to become in involved in ending this kind of discrimination. The Parents with Disabilities Advocacy Group will focus on implementing the many recommendations in the National Council on Disability report, most specifically the section on ensuring training for family law professionals and exploring federal legislation that will protect our families.
The report makes three major recommendations in regard to the family law system, as a whole:
- That family court professionals—including judges, attorneys, and evaluation personnel—receive training related to parenting with a disability.
- That the Department of Justice issue guidance to family courts on their legal obligations pursuant to the ADA.
- And that states modify their custody and visitation statutes to eliminate language that discriminates against parents with disabilities.
It is no surprise that parents with disabilities in this country face termination of their parental rights at a rate of between 13-80% (depending upon disability type) when the family court professionals they encounter demonstrate, “a lack of expertise or even familiarity regarding parents with disabilities and their children.” It is time to move beyond the shameful history of eugenics-based attitudes toward people with disabilities and end the unfair practice of stereotyping us as unfit parents. We in the Independent Living Movement know that with the proper supports and adaptations, we can be – and currently are – raising happy, healthy children just like millions of able bodied Americans do every day. No longer will we allow the ableist bias that is deeply embedded in every aspect of our government to stop us from raising loving families.
Please join the NCIL Parents with Disabilities Rights Task Force on Monday, January 30th, at 11:30 a.m. EST (8:30 a.m. PST). Contact Jessie Lorenz at firstname.lastname@example.org for connection information.
For more information, read the National Council on Disability Report recommendations.