Federal Agencies Outline Protections For Parents With Disabilities

Posted by Reeve Staff in Daily Dose on August 19, 2015 # Advocacy and Policy

On August 10, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) issued new guidance to states on Protecting the Rights of Parents and Prospective Parents with Disabilities. The cover letter and technical assistance document explain how the protections of the Americans with Disabilities Act and Rehabilitation Act apply to child welfare programs. According to the agencies, “This technical assistance is intended to help child welfare agencies and family courts understand their obligations under Federal law to ensure that parents and prospective parents with disabilities receive equal treatment and equal access to parenting opportunities.”

This effort stemmed from a rising number of discrimination complaints by people with disabilities involved with the child welfare system. It cites several recent cases of discrimination as well as the 2012 National Council on Disability (NCD) report, Rocking the Cradle: Ensuring the Rights of Parents with Disabilities and Their Children. This discrimination has impacted people with a range of disabilities, including people with paralysis. Writing for the American Bar Association, Roby Powell, the primary author of the NCD report, wrote about Kaney O’Neill a veteran and quadriplegic who faced a serious custody battle over her 10 week old son simply because of her quadriplegia, not taking into account the preparations and adaptations she had made to care for her son.

This guidance makes clear that child welfare decisions must not be based on harmful stereotypes, and that parents and prospective parents with disabilities must be protected from this type of discrimination.