Disabled parents face bias, loss of kids, report says

By David Crary

Associated Press

Published: Saturday, Nov. 24 2012 9:36 p.m. MST

She said the investigations dated back to her first efforts to adopt Heather, her biological niece, in 1999, after the girl was placed in foster care. At one point in a long procedural struggle, a social worker told a judge that "there was no way that handicapped woman could care for that handicapped child."

"We are nearly 13 years later, and Heather is still doing very well," Lucas wrote.

As a lawyer, Lucas has represented many other parents with disabilities.

The lead author of the new report, disability-rights lawyer Robyn Powell, says her goal was to challenge presumptions that disabled people can't be effective parents.

"Of course there are going to be some parents with disabilities who would be lousy parents — that's the same with parents without disabilities," she said. "If there is neglect, is it due to the disability? And can it be rectified by providing the necessary support?"

Ella Callow, a lawyer with the National Center for Parents with Disabilities and their Families, said the report raises fundamental questions about America's social priorities — given that state and federal laws value both the well-being of children and the rights of disabled people.

"If we really believe that families are the key unit on which society is built, then we have to enable these families to be healthy and functioning, even at public expense," Callow said. "We know foster care isn't a good place for children to be — they do better with their own parents, at their own home."

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