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Cries for equal child custody rights from disabled parents

Americans with disabilities have been fighting a long time to drive home the notion that they deserve more than lip service when it comes to individual rights. They know they are entitled to equal human rights and they've made great strides on some fronts, but in Louisiana and elsewhere, there may still be an area where they face challenges. One is in the area of their rights concerning child custody.

For some reason, despite the passage of Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990, experts say disabled adults find their right to parenthood being challenged. Some say this occurs on a scale of millions of parents.

There is evidence to support the claim. In Missouri, there's a couple that had their child taken by the state two days after its birth because both parents are blind. In Chicago, a mother who happens to be a quadriplegic endured an 18-month fight in the courts to retain custody of her son. Desired adoptions are at risk, too, as evidenced by the case of a California woman who had already paid a fee to an adoption agency, only to be told her cerebral palsy would likely make her unfit.

The federal government says this is happening nationwide and says that it is a distinct problem for parents with disabilities. And there are those now beginning to cry for change. According to a new report by the National Council on Disability, most states allow courts to use physical disability as a reason to deny parental rights. The agency says that flies in the face of the ADA more than 20 years after its enactment.

It must be noted that child welfare under family laws is driven by trying to determine what is in the best interest of the child. On that basis, there are child welfare experts who say that there are times when parents with disabilities -- especially those with intellectual disabilities -- are not equipped to serve the best interests of a child.

Those calling for change say one of the biggest issues is that many times children are removed from a home before assessments of their situations are completed. They say a more positive step would be to support of programs that would help caring disabled parents who may be having difficulties find solutions that would allow them to retain custody of their children.

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

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