NCD Issues Groundbreaking Report "Rocking the Cradle: Ensuring the Rights of Parents with Disabilities and Their Children"

WASHINGTON, DC -- On Thursday, September 27, the National Council on Disability (NCD), an independent federal agency, released “Rocking the Cradle: Ensuring the Rights of Parents with Disabilities and Their Children” -- a groundbreaking policy study, infused with real life stories of parents with disabilities, to provide a comprehensive overview of factors that support and obstruct Americans with all kinds of disabilities from exercising their fundamental right to begin and maintain families.

“Twenty-two years after passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act with an increasing number of people with disabilities taking advantage of increased protections to receive an education and go to work, parents with disabilities continue to be the only distinct community that have to fight to retains – and sometimes gain – custody of their own children without cause,” said NCD Council Member, Ari Ne’eman. “Currently, the U.S. legal system is not protecting the rights of parents with disabilities and their children. Two-thirds of state child welfare laws allow courts to determine a parent is unfit solely on the basis of a parent’s disability. In fact, every state allows disability as a consideration when determining the best interest of a child in family or dependency court. Whether actions are taken at the state or federal level—as an amendment or a new law—the need to correct this unfair bias could not be more urgent or clear.”

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.

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.

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.


NCD thanks 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.

Full report is available on NCD's website at:
http://www.ncd.gov/publications/2012/Sep272012/

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