Parents With Disabilities Are At Heightened Risk of Losing Custody of Their Children to Foster Care or The Other Parent

More than six million children in the US (almost 10 %) have a parent who is disabled.

Put another way, 26% of adults with physical disabilities, 24% of adults with psychiatric disabilities, 16% of adults with a cognitive disability, and 40% of adults with sensory impairment are parents.

Across the nation, parents with disabilities are at significantly greater risk of losing custody of their children than parents who are not disabled, whether the loss is to a child welfare agency or to their child’s other parent, according to a report issued by the National Council on Disability. In fact, parents with psychiatric disabilities or cognitive disabilities may lose custody of their children as much as eighty percent of the time.

Disabilities and diagnoses running the gamut of blindness, deafness, partial paralysis, lupus, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, and multiple sclerosis, to name a few, meet with negative kneejerk reactions of prejudice in family court, according to the report.

Despite advances in unrelated legal rights for disabled persons, divorce laws and child custody laws have not kept pace with respect to disabled parents.

In most US states, the law equates merely having a disability with being unfit to parent. Even where, at most, only minimal public services may be necessary for the disabled parent to parent effectively.

Without any evidence of any adverse impact of the parent’s disability on the child. Without regard to the harm that arbitrary removal and placement in foster care (or even extended family care) does to the children.

People who work for and on behalf of the disability community are advocating for amendments to the Americans with Disabilities Act to protect the rights of parents with disabilities. And to ensure that support systems for the disabled not be viewed as evidence of parental deficiency of the disabled parents.

In the meantime, disabled parents and chronically ill parents facing child custody disputes should seek help from attorneys with experience representing the interests of parents with disabilities and chronic illnesses, such as

  • multiple sclerosis

  • lupus

  • chronic fatigue syndrome

  • fibromyalgia

  • Sjogren’s Syndrome

  • diabetes

  • IBS / Chrohn’s Disease

  • asthma

  • blindness and

  • deafness, as well as

  • bipolar disorder

  • obsessive-compulsive disorder

  • post-traumatic stress disorder

  • anxiety and

  • other such conditions.