Rocking the Cradle: Ensuring the Rights of Parents with Disabilities and Their Children

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Despite a dark history marked by the eugenics movement, increasing numbers of people with disabilities are choosing to become parents. Recent research reveals that more than 4 million parents--6 percent of American mothers and fathers--are disabled. This number will unquestionably increase as more people with disabilities exercise a broader range of lifestyle options as a result of social integration, civil rights, and new adaptive technologies. Likewise, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of veterans who are returning from war with service-connected disabilities, some of whom may already be parents and others who will enter parenthood after acquiring their disability. The National Council on Disability (NCD) undertook this groundbreaking study to advance understanding and promote the rights of parents with disabilities and their children. This report provides a comprehensive review of the barriers and facilitators people with diverse disabilities--including intellectual and developmental disabilities, psychiatric disabilities, sensory disabilities, and physical disabilities--experience when they are exercising their fundamental right to create and maintain families. This report also describes the persistent, systemic, and pervasive discrimination against parents with disabilities. It analyzes how U.S. disability law and policy apply to parents with disabilities within the child welfare and family law systems, and the disparate treatment of parents with disabilities and their children. Examination of the impediments prospective parents with disabilities encounter when adopting or accessing assisted reproductive technologies provides further examples of the need for comprehensive protection of these rights. This report sets forth suggested action to ensure the rights of parents with disabilities and their children. Whether such action is taken at the state or federal level--as an amendment or a new law--the need for action could not be more timely or clear. Appended are: (1) Interviews; (2) State-by-State Analysis of Dependency Statutes and Their Inclusion of Disability; (3) Model Legislation (State or Federal); and (4) Proposed ADA Amendment. (Contains 1329 endnotes.)

Author-supplied keywords

  • Social Integration; Civil Rights; Physical Disabil
  • United States; Rehabilitation Act 1973; Americans

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  • National Council on Disability

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