Posted on Feb 28, 2013

A new report written by the National Council on Disability has found that the current legal system in the United States does not protect the rights of disabled parents when it comes to adoption, custody, and visitation. In addition, some current laws and legal decisions regarding parents with disability and child custody go against what is written in the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The 445-page report, titled "Rocking the Cradle: Ensuring the Rights of Parents with Disabilities and Their Children” and written by disability rights lawyer Robyn Powell argues that although many disabled people can be fine and effective parents, the court decisions and laws don’t often reflect that. Specifically, the report states that disabled people are more likely to lose their custody rights during a divorce, more likely to run into barriers when seeking fertility treatments, and more likely to have problems adopting children. Some states have laws that can terminate parental rights if a person suffers from a serious mental illness. Most troubling is the fact that children may be removed from a disabled person’s home before an investigation into the capability of the parent is complete.

While some parents with physical or mental disabilities are not able to care for their children, many are perfectly capable despite, for example, being blind or deaf. Powell says that while we must look after the well being of all children, we also have to consider the rights of the disabled.

How can we help solve the issue? The report suggests fairer parental assessments, better support networks for disabled parents, and a better understanding of disabilities in general.

Molly B. Kenny
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Divorce and Child Custody Attorney Serving Bellevue and Seattle Washington