The Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN) has issued a statement applauding the National Council on Disability (NCD) for releasing a new report on safeguarding the parenting rights of people with disabilities. On September 27, NCD issued "Rocking the Cradle: Ensuring the Rights of Parents with Disabilities and Their Children." The full text of the report is available on the NCD website.
The report contains an in-depth policy study combined with real life accounts from parents with disabilities, and provides an overview of factors that both support and impede disabled Americans as they exercise their right to start a family and raise their children. The report enumerates and analyzes the prejudices faced by parents with disabilities by exposing the disparate treatment that disabled parents and their families encounter when they interact with the court systems and with social services. It also offers draft model state and federal statutory language as a step toward correcting the widespread discrimination faced by parents with disabilities in the United States.
"We hope Congress will create legislation as is laid out in this report. Parents with disabilities, including autistic parents, and their children have long suffered from discrimination. Whether it’s been untrained social services employees or disgruntled ex-spouses, there has been a very real danger of being stripped of parenthood for no reason other than one’s disability,” says Melody Latimer, ASAN’s Director of Community Engagement and an autistic parent.
Among the report's key findings:
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.
Despite the numerous and pervasive obstacles faced by parents with disabilities, they remain a subpopulation that is frequently overlooked both in the popular consciousness and in national policy. The Autistic Self Advocacy Network stands with disabled parents, including our very own members. We urge state and federal legislatures and offices to take action, and to protect the rights of parents with disabilities.