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Independent Living News & Policy from the National Council on Independent Living

NCD Issues Groundbreaking Report “Rocking the Cradle: Ensuring the Rights of Parents with Disabilities and Their Children”

Equality Now America for All 2010 protest signOn Thursday, September 27, the National Council on Disability (NCD), an independent federal agency, released “Rocking the Cradle: Ensuring the Rights of Parents with Disabilities and Their Children” — a groundbreaking policy study, infused with real life stories of parents with disabilities, to provide a comprehensive overview of factors that support and obstruct Americans with all kinds of disabilities from exercising their fundamental right to begin and maintain families.

“Twenty-two years after passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act with an increasing number of people with disabilities taking advantage of increased protections to receive an education and go to work, parents with disabilities continue to be the only distinct community that have to fight to retains – and sometimes gain – custody of their own children without cause,” said NCD Council Member, Ari Ne’eman. 

“Currently, the U.S. legal system is not protecting the rights of parents with disabilities and their children. Two-thirds of state child welfare laws allow courts to determine a parent is unfit solely on the basis of a parent’s disability. In fact, every state allows disability as a consideration when determining the best interest of a child in family or dependency court. Whether actions are taken at the state or federal level—as an amendment or a new law—the need to correct this unfair bias could not be more urgent or clear.”

About the report: “Rocking the Cradle: Ensuring the Rights of Parents with Disabilities and Their Children” explores the pervasive prejudices faced by parents with disabilities by exposing the disparate treatment often encountered by parents with disabilities and their children within court and service systems and offers draft model state and federal statutory language to correct the discrimination faced by parents with disabilities in the United States.

Key findings:

  • Estimates indicate 6.1 million children in the U.S. have parents with disabilities – Nearly 1 in 10, almost 10% of the population.
  • Parents with disabilities are the only community of Americans who must struggle to retain custody of their children.
    • Removal rates of parents with psychiatric disabilities is as high as 70 – 80 %
    • Removal rates of parents with intellectual disabilities is as high as 80%
    • Extremely high removal rates and loss of parental rights for parents with sensory or physical disabilities.
    • Parents with disabilities are more likely to lose custody of their children after divorce.
  • Prospective parents with disabilities have more difficulty when it comes to accessing reproductive health care such as assisted reproductive technologies.
  • Prospective parents with disabilities face significant barriers to adopting children.

In the face of numerous obstacles, hope remains with several programs that show promise, long-term sustainable impact and potential for replication. With more funding, model programs currently serving American parents with disabilities could easily grow and develop nationwide to better serve this often overlooked population.

NCD thanks Through the Looking Glass, the NIDRR-funded National Center for Parents with Disabilities and Their Families, for their valuable assistance in writing sections of this report. Their insight and guidance during the research and drafting of “Rocking the Cradle” was instrumental in its development and completion.

For more information contact:
Lawrence Carter-Long, Public Affairs Specialist National Council on Disability
Phone: 202-272-2004

Source: NCD


  1. Disability advocates. I am a mom of a 15 year old young man who has a diagnosis of ds/asd and apraxia. He is a student at CHS Cody Wy. I have been begging the school for over 4 years for a reader that our son could aess in school so he could listen to the print materials or eheven one book of his choice. The school spent over $20,000.00 this year to fight me in due process so they wouldn’t have to implement the AT evaluation they paid to have created by Barb Locke of WATR. Wy. They brought the ipad and the communication app. But say they will have him use it if he needs it. The speech therapist documented he is “adept” at using it. Which is a complete lie. She swore to it in due process too.But anyone sitting with our son 5 minutes with his device would see he is not adept by any stretch of the imagination. He was punished this year for me taking the school to due process and lost his right to be in any class with his peers as he had been for the previous 6 years.

  2. email me if you care to help in any way. I need advocates to fight for our sons right to education and communication.

    • theadvocacymonitor says

      Hi Jane, I’m not sure where you live, but I encourage you to contact your local Center for Independent Living. Head over to (or click the NCIL logo near the top of this page) for more information about CILs or to find your local CIL. Good luck!

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