Feature Writer John Christie – Disabled Parents Lose Custody of Their Children Because of Public Misconceptions

Two years ago, Erika Johnson, of Independence Missouri, who is blind along with her husband, had her first baby, Mikaela. While in the hospital, the nurse was teaching Erika how to breast feed her baby. The nurse sympathetically told Erika that many mothers find nursing hard at first. Then the nurse called social services and reported the couple to them. The couple had their baby taken away from them for 57 days.

This story is more the norm than the exception for disabled parents. As a matter of fact, the National Council on Disability’s 445 page report cites many examples of discrimination that disabled parents face. This also reinforces the cultural belief that people with physical or intellectual disabilities shouldn’t have or raise kids.

Another example of a disabled person who would like kids but doesn’t have them yet is Robyn Powell. She uses a power wheelchair because she has limited use of her arms and legs. At 31, this attorney was asked and suggested many times if she would like to have the process of sterilization done. She has refused many times. She says that she has been offered a hysterectomy more times than she can count. She tells them that she thinks that she will need her uterus. As you can see, society as a whole feels that the disabled population is incapable of raising kids.

Parenthood is hard for anyone. But Powell believes that people with disabilities can adjust to parenthood better because they are more adaptable. Yet the council’s report called “Rocking The Cradle: Ensuring the Rights of Parents with Disabilities and Their Children” shows the challenges and discrimination some face when it comes to child welfare, family law, access to fertility treatment and adoption.

When the Americans with Disabilities Act was passed in 1990, people thought this act would make it easier for this group of people. But it hasn’t. People with disabilities who want to have kids and raise families still have to deal with legal quicksand. Two-thirds of child welfare laws list some type of disability as grounds for removing a child from his home and allowing parental rights to be terminated. People with psychiatric or intellectual disabilities lose their children at a rate as high as 80 percent.

Agencies for the disabled should start a campaign and educate the public about how disabled parents can bring up families and hold down jobs. That way, the public will have a positive image of what the disabled can do. This way, maybe the statistics can be turned around.

Source: http://healthland.time.com/2012/11/27/why-parents-with-disabilities-are-losing-custody-of-their-kids/

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