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Independent Living News & Policy from the National Council on Independent Living

Happy Valentine’s Day from the National Council on Independent Living!

Valentines heart and handsValentine’s Day 2013 has brought us articles that address love, parenting, and disability from two mainstream news outlets. From NPR, A Life Defined Not By Disability, But Love, and from the Washington Post, When Bill met Shelley: No disability could keep them apart.

This Valentine’s Day, NCIL celebrates the unique love between parent and child.

In September 2012, the National Council on Disability (NCD) released the report Rocking the Cradle: Ensuring the Rights of Parents with Disabilities and Their Children, a “groundbreaking policy study, infused with real life stories of parents with disabilities, to provide a comprehensive overview of factors that support and obstruct Americans with all kinds of disabilities from exercising their fundamental right to begin and maintain families.”

NCIL Executive Director Kelly Buckland worked with primary author Robyn Powell on that report. The report contained significant findings, which established a springboard for creating federal legislation to protect the parental rights of persons with disabilities. 

Key findings from the report:

  • Estimates indicate 6.1 million children in the U.S. have parents with disabilities – Nearly 1 in 10, almost 10% of the population.
  • Parents with disabilities are the only community of Americans who must struggle to retain custody of their children.
  • Removal rates of parents with psychiatric disabilities is as high as 70 – 80 %
  • Removal rates of parents with intellectual disabilities is as high as 80%
  • Extremely high removal rates and loss of parental rights for parents with sensory or physical disabilities.
  • Parents with disabilities are more likely to lose custody of their children after divorce.
  • Prospective parents with disabilities have more difficulty when it comes to accessing reproductive health care such assisted reproductive technologies.
  • Prospective parents with disabilities face significant barriers to adopting children.
  • In the face of numerous obstacles, hope remains with several programs that show promise, long-term sustainable impact and potential for replication. With more funding, model programs currently serving American parents with disabilities could easily grow and develop nationwide to better serve this often overlooked population.

Since the release of the NCD report, there has been conversation both in the media and throughout DC’s advocacy circles on protecting the rights of parents with disabilities. NCIL is proud to support and lead these efforts and we will continue to update our membership on our work.

“Twenty-two years after passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act with an increasing number of people with disabilities taking advantage of increased protections to receive an education and go to work, parents with disabilities continue to be the only distinct community that have to fight to retain – and sometimes gain – custody of their own children without cause.

“Currently, the U.S. legal system is not protecting the rights of parents with disabilities and their children. Two-thirds of state child welfare laws allow courts to determine a parent is unfit solely on the basis of a parent’s disability. In fact, every state allows disability as a consideration when determining the best interest of a child in family or dependency court. Whether actions are taken at the state or federal level—as an amendment or a new law—the need to correct this unfair bias could not be more urgent or clear.” Ari Ne’eman, NCD Council Member

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