Parents with disabilities sometimes encounter discrimination. Common culprits include their children’s schools and child welfare agencies. Sometimes the discrimination is negative treatment. For example, a school may fail to update a parent with a disability about their child’s progress while providing regular updates to parents without disabilities, or a child welfare agency may assume that, due to the parent’s disability, she is unable to take care of her child and remove the child from the home. Other times the discrimination is failing to provide a change or service the parent needs to equally participate. For example, a school may refuse to provide written information in an alternate format to a blind parent or a child welfare agency may refuse to provide appropriately tailored services and supports so that a parent with a developmental disability can continue parenting his child at home.
Fortunately, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and similar disability rights laws protect parents from being discriminated against due to their disabilities. While these laws cannot always prevent discrimination from happening, these laws do provide tools for fighting discrimination when it does happen.
CREEC recently worked with a Deaf mother’s attorney to ensure that her rights were protected. We were able to successfully advocate for the child’s school, the child welfare agency, and the court to provide qualified sign language interpreters for communications with our client. As a result, this mother was able to become fully involved in her son’s education, engage in constructive conversations with the welfare agency, and fully participate in her court case. Ultimately, these interactions resolved the concern about her son’s education and the court case was closed with the child remaining at home with his mother.
We are also working with co-counsel to represent a father with an intellectual disability. His children were removed from his home by a child welfare agency. The agency has asked the court to terminate his parental rights, asserting he does not have the capacity to raise his children. We have filed a complaint on this father’s behalf with the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and also represent him in juvenile court. We are hopeful our representation will result in a finding of discrimination by HHS and in our client’s children returning home where they belong.
What can you do if you are a disabled parent who is being discriminated against? One option is for you (or your attorney if you already have one) to contact CREEC at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 303.757.7901 (Phone) or at 720.407.0375 (VP) for possible assistance. We most often help with these issues by providing information about legal rights and, if needed, referrals to attorneys who may be able to provide representation. In addition, in limited instances, we co-counsel with parents’ rights attorneys to help directly address the discrimination.
For more information about the rights of parents with disabilities:
Rocking the Cradle: Ensuring the Rights of Parents with Disabilities and their Children, National Council on Disability, https://www.ncd.gov/publications/2012/Sep272012
Protecting the Rights of Parents and Prospective Parents with Disabilities, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Justice, https://www.ada.gov/doj_hhs_ta/child_welfare_ta.html