Rocking the Cradle Report on Ending Discrimination Against Parents with Disabilities
Published: 2012-10-23 - Updated: 2021-07-08
Author: National Council on Disability | Contact: ncd.gov
Peer-Reviewed Publication: N/A
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Synopsis: Rocking the Cradle report released by NCD receives accolades from disability organizations and people with disabilities across the U.S.. In the report, NCD reveals parents with disabilities are the only distinct community of Americans who must struggle to retain custody of their children. Removal rates run as high as 80% among parents with a psychiatric or intellectual disability. "Rocking the Cradle" explores the pervasive prejudices faced by parents with disabilities by exposing the disparate treatment often encountered by parents with disabilities and their children within court and service systems.
A report released by the National Council on Disability (NCD) September 27 has received accolades from disability organizations and people with disabilities across the United States. NCD's report "Rocking the Cradle: Ensuring the Rights of Parents with Disabilities and Their Children," the first of its kind issued by a federal agency, examines the discrimination faced by the more than four million parents with disabilities in raising their families. Estimates indicate 6.1 million children in the U.S. have parents with disabilities. This amounts to nearly 1 in 10 American children.
This article is from our digest of publications relating to Disability Discrimination that also includes:
The National Council on Disability (NCD) is a nonpartisan, independent federal agency made up of 15 Presidentially-appointed Council Members and supporting staff that advises the President, Congress and other federal agencies on disability policy, programs and services. In our federal advisory role, we engage regularly with community groups, non-profits and charity organizations. NCD is not a non-profit. As an independent federal agency, NCD does not represent the views of any political party.
In the report, NCD reveals that parents with disabilities are the only distinct community of Americans who must struggle to retain custody of their children. Removal rates run as high as 80 percent among parents with a psychiatric or intellectual disability. It also shines a spotlight on the hidden hardships faced by parents struggling to keep their children, adopt children, or even access reproductive assistance. "Rocking the Cradle" ends on a hopeful note by sharing parental success stories and making recommendations for ways state and federal government can correct unjust practices.
Support from the disability community has affirmed the overdue need for NCD's report and its findings:
- Stephen Bennett, President & CEO of United Cerebral Palsy said Rocking the Cradle "highlights an awful truth: parents with disabilities are facing tremendous challenges and discrimination as they try to raise their families. The situation is appalling, and action needs to be taken."
- Peter V. Berns, CEO of The Arc said NCD's report "uncovers the heartbreaking reality for too many families across the country - parents with disabilities are treated unjustly when it comes to their rights as parents, and far too many families are broken apart by outdated and discriminatory practices."
- Dr. Marc Maurer, President of the National Federation of the Blind, stated: "Blind people often find their fitness as parents questioned solely on the basis of blindness, and in some cases misconceptions about their capabilities result in the children of blind parents being removed from their homes by the state. Situations like this are not only heart-wrenching for the parents, but also violate federal law and their constitutional rights."
Stories of real parents with disabilities inform and personalize the broader issues covered in the report. Among them:
- Kevin and Karen, adoptive parents to Dominika, their five year-old daughter with Apert syndrome. Karen is a wheelchair user and Kevin was born with hemophilia, and was diagnosed with HIV in high school. When adopting, Kevin and Karen bypassed international adoption because most countries deny prospective parents with disabilities. They live in Chicago.
- Carrie is a single mother of four adopted children, all of whom also have disabilities. She is a power wheelchair user who is ventilator dependent. Carrie has been inappropriately referred to Child Protective Services on numerous occasions. She lives with her family in Denver.
- Rebecca (pseudonym used to protect confidentiality), a mother with an intellectual disability, gave birth to a daughter six years ago. Because her daughter was premature she had trouble feeding and was eventually sent to live in a foster home. Rebecca has undergone several parenting assessments since then all with positive results. She has worked full-time at the same job for 17 years and has owned her home for 15 years. Rebecca is available to available to speak to reporters with her advocate. The case is still being litigated. She lives in Connecticut.
"Currently, every state allows disability to be used when determining parental rights in family or dependency court without additional cause or concern. Whether actions are taken at the state or federal level the need to correct this unfair bias could not be more urgent or clear," said Janice Lehrer-Stein, Vice Chair of the National Council on Disability, the independent federal agency that issued the report.
"The positive response to "Rocking the Cradle" from disability groups, parents with disabilities and service agencies from across the nation confirms the need we saw to do this report and further bolsters our commitment to ensuring the rights of parents with disabilities and their families."
About the Report
"Rocking the Cradle: Ensuring the Rights of Parents with Disabilities and Their Children" explores the pervasive prejudices faced by parents with disabilities by exposing the disparate treatment often encountered by parents with disabilities and their children within court and service systems and offers draft model state and federal statutory language to correct the discrimination faced by parents with disabilities in the United States.
- 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 as 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.
Through the Looking Glass, the NIDRR-funded National Center for Parents with Disabilities and Their Families, for their valuable assistance in writing sections of this report. Their insight and guidance during the research and drafting of "Rocking the Cradle" was instrumental in its development and completion.
Attorney Advisor, National Council on Disability - Washington, DC - Robyn Powell is the principle author of "Rocking the Cradle: Ensuring the Rights of Parents with Disabilities and Their Children " and NCD's Attorney Advisor. Previously, Robyn was the Disability Rights Program Manager at the Equal Rights Center, where she was responsible for developing and coordinating disability-focused education and outreach, research, investigations and testing. Before that, she served as Assistant Director for Policy and Advocacy for the Disability Policy Consortium, in Boston, MA, where she was responsible for a wide variety of programmatic, administrative, advocacy and outreach activities for the state-wide disability rights organization. Robyn also previously served as Staff Attorney for Greater Boston Legal Services and was a legal intern for both NCD and the Disability Law Center, the Massachusetts Protection & Advocacy agency. Robyn holds a B.S. Degree in Social Work from Bridgewater State University and a J.D. from Suffolk University Law School in Boston.
Vice Chair, National Council on Disability - San Francisco, CA - Janice Lehrer-Stein is the vice chair of NCD and a parent with a disability. In addition, she is a member of the Board of Directors of Medical Research Charities - a national federation of research focused non-profits, which solicits and directs employee donations to the Combined Federal and State Campaigns. She is a National Trustee of the Foundation Fighting Blindness and was Chair of the 2010 and 2011 Dining in the Dark dinner in San Francisco, which increased awareness about people with blindness and low vision. A board member of Disability Rights Advocates, a non-profit law firm working to improve access and secure the civil rights of individuals with disabilities, Lehrer-Stein holds a Juris Doctor degree from University of Toronto and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Yale. She was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa in 1982 and is legally blind.
Appointed member, National Council on Disability - Silver Spring, MD - Ari Ne'eman is the President and co-founder of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, an advocacy organization run by and for Autistic adults seeking to increase the representation of Autistic people across society. He serves as Policy and Program Evaluation Committee Chair for the Council. In his policy work, Ari has worked on a wide variety of disability rights related legislation relating to education, transition, employment, rights protection and other areas. Ari also served as a public member of the Inter-Agency Autism Coordinating Committee, a Federal advisory committee that coordinates all efforts within the Department of Health and Human Services concerning autism, from April 2010-2012. Previously, Ari served as Vice Chair of the New Jersey Adults with Autism Task Force, where he represented autistic adults in reviewing the state's autism services. He also served on the New Jersey Special Education Review Commission, where he authored a minority report on the topic of aversives, restraint and seclusion.
Full report is available on NCD's website at: www.ncd.gov/publications/2012/Sep272012/
Rocking the Cradle Report on Ending Discrimination Against Parents with Disabilities | National Council on Disability (ncd.gov). Disabled World makes no warranties or representations in connection therewith. Content may have been edited for style, clarity or length.
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