Troubling Developments

Parents with disabilities often face challenges that other parents don’t have to contend with, but having their kids taken away shouldn’t be one of them.

Mom with disability with daughters

If you have disabilities, should that allow the government to step in and take your children away from you? Of course not — but you may not know that there continues to be discrimination at the hands of health professionals and social workers, and children of folks with disabilities are being taken away. It’s something everyone needs to be aware of and be concerned about.

The facts

The National Council on Disability reports that nearly one out of every 10 American kids has a parent with a disability. Within the last few months, they released a report that, among other issues, highlighted the disproportionate number of children that are taken away from Mom and Dad due to a parent’s disability.

They found:

“The child welfare system is ill-equipped to support parents with disabilities and their families, resulting in disproportionately high rates of involvement with child welfare services and devastatingly high rates of parents with disabilities losing their parental rights.”

"Many states actually allow for disability to be grounds for termination of parental rights."

It’s frightening. Many states actually allow for disability to be grounds for termination of parental rights. Read that again — and think about how horrifying that truly sounds.

The report contains stories from parents who have been through the child welfare system — some were successful in their battle to retain their parental rights, and others were not.

One mom’s thoughts

Sarah Kovac, whose amazing and inspirational story we highlighted last year, has Arthrogryposis Multiplex Congenita (AMC) and does many daily activities, including eating, driving and taking care of her 3-year-old son with her toes and feet. We were able to discuss this alarming practice with her to find out what it means to her as a disabled mom.

"Parents with disabilities are not seen as 'capable, until proven otherwise.'"

“Parents with disabilities are not seen as ‘capable, until proven otherwise’ by many of their peers, or tragically, their government,” she shared. “In much of the United States, simply being a person with a disability is the only reason needed to have your children taken away. Legally, it is more difficult to keep custody of our own biological children than it is to lose custody. It is unfortunate and terribly unjust that people like me have to fight to be the parents that we are.”

She recounted her fears that have developed since the birth of her first child three years ago. Even before she had heard of a single instance of a parent losing their child because Mom or Dad had disabilities, she worried about taking her little boy out into public. “I was so scared to make a mistake in front of the staring passer[s]-bys that I wouldn’t take the risk,” she said.

She explained that parents with disabilities are no different from their peers — that they would do everything within their power to keep their children safe. “By all means, if a parent’s disability causes a child harm, step in,” she told us. “But until that point, I think we deserve the respect to be assumed capable, unless proven otherwise.”

More on parenting challenges

Challenges of parenting a child with diabetes
Handling the challenges of being a solo-parenting married mom
Overcoming breastfeeding challenges


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Comments on "Parents with disabilities: In danger of losing their kids"

Mlk May 06, 2013 | 7:51 AM

I'm a single mom with Narcolepsy. I am an excellent mother, and i have a community of people including Dr.'s and a police chief who will stand by my side. I'll move to another country before I'd let someone take him from me.

J.W. January 19, 2013 | 3:58 PM

This scares me. I have Aspergers. Currently I am raising my daughter, who has autism and ADHD, and my son, who has a speech delay, both kids have sensory issues, and I have raising them by myself while my husband is in Afghanistan. It saddens me that the state needs only to know I have Aspergers to be able to remove my children from me. My husband could come home from war physically injured and we'd be at an even greater risk of having our children removed simply because of disability. It doesn't make sense that my children are clean, fed, taken to the doctor and to school and are all around well cared for and yet because I have a learning disability they could be taken from me in my husband's absence. It's just sad that people who beat their children have a better chance of keeping them than parent's with disabilities.

Ashley January 15, 2013 | 9:43 AM

I am a single mother with a disability and this scares the heck out of me...

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