Parents with disabilities may lose custody of their children when government agencies claim that the disability prevents the parents from adequately caring for them. To regain custody, disabled parents are forced to turn to the courts to demonstrate their ability to properly care for their children.
Disabled Parents Targeted in Greater Numbers
It is estimated that more than 6 percent of American parents, or 4.1 million parents with children under the age of 18, are disabled. Regardless of the type of disability, disabled parents and their children are targeted by child protection agencies in far greater numbers than other families. Using the disability as a reason, children are often removed from parental custody without other justification.
Bias Against Disabled Parents
Physical or intellectual disability is often viewed as proof that a parent is not capable of caring for a child. Frequently, the children are removed from parents without ever demonstrating a link between parental care and the disability.
Under Illinois law, parental custody may be taken away when:
- A child, sibling or another child of the parent has been abused injured or killed by the parent
- A parent has lost custody of other children
- A parent is incapable of providing proper care for the child
The argument that the disabled cannot properly care for a child, is a bias that frequently disregards the facts. It also ignores the parental custody rights of disabled parents who may be perfectly capable of caring for their children despite their disability.
Disabled Parents Must Be Proactive
The disproportionate referral of children with disabled parents to child protection agencies can be a form of discrimination. To convince courts that they are capable of caring for their children, disabled parents should:
- Have an unbiased parenting assessment completed by a professional familiar with disabled parenting.
- Seek assistance from local disability services that can help resolve housing, mobility, transportation and other issues.
- File a claim under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to motivate courts to seek a reasonable accommodation for the disability as required by the ADA.
Disabled parents fighting for custody of their children must be proactive. The presumption that the best interest of the child is to be in the custody of parents frequently does not apply to disabled parents who face court battles to retain or even gain custody of their children.