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Report finds disabled parents at risk for losing child custody

According to a recent report from the National Council on Disability, U.S. courts are not properly protecting the parental rights of disabled parents. The report claims that widespread laws that allow most states to consider a parent's disability when determining his or her parenting capability have left thousands of disabled parents struggling to get or retain child custody. The report asserts that this practice directly violates the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act.

Some experts say that while removing children from disabled parents can be emotionally difficult, it is often necessary for the child's safety and development. They argue this is particularly true when parents suffer from severe intellectual disabilities. An experienced child-welfare administrator in Maryland explained that courts should prioritize "permanence and stability" for a child over the interests of the child's parents.

The 455-page NCD report found that about 6.1 million American children have disabled parents, who are at much higher risk for losing custody and parental rights. Data from the report shows that as high as 80 percent of all parents with intellectual or psychiatric disabilities eventually lose their children. The report went on to explain that parents with disabilities who go through divorces are even more likely to lose child custody. Furthermore, such individuals generally find it more difficult to adopt a child or gain access to assisted-reproductive treatments.

An attorney with the National Center for Parents with Disabilities said that federal and state courts should make more effort to prioritize the interests of both children and disabled individuals. Instead of removing children from disabled parents and placing them in foster care, the attorney argued that courts should increase support for disabled parents that allow them to better care for their children.

Source: Huffington Post, "Disabled Parents Often Lose Custody Of Children, Report Finds," David Carry, Nov. 26, 2012

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