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Do disabled parents have a custody disadvantage? (2)

In our previous blog post, we discussed a new report from the National Council on Disability, an independent federal agency, which states that disabled parents have a high likelihood of losing custody of their children based solely on their disability. In one of many startling statistics, the report states that as many as 80 percent of parents who suffer from psychiatric or intellectual disabilities lose custody of their kids.

According to one autism rights activist, the custody issues of disabled people boil down to simple discrimination. “Parents with disabilities continue to be the only distinct community that has to fight to retain – and sometimes gain – custody of their own children,” he said. “The need to correct this unfair bias could not be more urgent or clear.”

Many child welfare officials have spoken out against these findings, arguing that a disability is rarely the sole reason for a child’s removal. “[The parent’s disability] is not why they are taken away,” said one child services worker. “They are taken away because the disability has continued to the point where there’s an episode of maltreatment or neglect.”

However, the report states that child welfare system is not doing a sufficient job in determining whether a parent’s disability creates real, unworkable roadblocks to a child’s health and well-being, or whether it simply requires a creative solution. In many instances, all that is needed is additional support and assistance for disabled parents, or the allowance of unique living situations.

One reason for this is that child welfare workers do not have sufficient knowledge of when a parent’s disability truly places a child at risk, and need additional specialized training on how to handle and improve the situations of disabled parents.

What do you think? Should a disability automatically render a parent unfit?

Source: Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “Disabled parents face bias, loss of kids: report,” David Crary, Nov. 26, 2012

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