The issue

Parents living with paralysis often face discrimination in adoption, reproductive health, child welfare, custody determination and other areas of parenting.

Often, legal systems see only the disability, failing to take into account the skills, preparations and adaptations made by the parent with a disability.

In 2012, the National Council on Disability wrote a report detailing this systemic discrimination, called Rocking the Cradle: Ensuring the Rights of Parents with Disabilities and Their Children.

Recent action

In 2015, the Department of Health & 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.

This new information further explains how the protections of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Rehabilitation Act apply to child welfare programs.

In 2016, the Reeve Foundation and National Council on Disability joined forces to create a “Know Your Rights” toolkit for parents living with disabilities. From child welfare to family law, the booklet covers a wealth of issues and resources on parental rights.

Next steps

The Reeve Foundation will work with the Departments of Justice and Health & Human Services to implement their guidance and ensure that parents with disabilities do not face discrimination.

Ultimately, our goal is for parents to maintain their parental rights on an equal basis with people without disabilities. We will also work with our disability partners to continue to raise attention to discrimination against parents with disabilities and formulate new national policy responses.


Information for parents and prospective parents with disabilities:
Protecting the Rights of Parents and Prospective Parents with Disabilities cover letter
Technical Assistance Document


Across the country, parents with disabilities are denied basic civil rights in custody and family court, child welfare, adoption and foster care, reproductive health, and other aspects of a parenting.

Learn about the problem and efforts to educate, advocate, and empower parents living with paralysis or other disabilities to know their rights and change discriminatory practices.

Webinar hosted by Rachel Patterson, Director of Public Policy, Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation and Robyn Powell, Co-Founder of the Disabled Parenting Project. Recorded live on July 19, 2016.