SB 492: Protecting the rights of parents who experience disability

photo of baby's and parent's hands

Executive Director Bob Joondeph testified before the Senate Committee on Human Services on SB 492.

SB 492 is intended to bring clarity to our laws governing the termination of parental rights so that they are fair to parents who experience disabilities and their children.

People may assume that parents with disabilities do not have the ability to raise their children and cannot benefit from reunification services. This may be based upon the belief that because the parent’s disability will not change, the parent’s skills cannot be enhanced. This is simply wrong.

What SB 492 Would Do

The ADA, Rehabilitation Act, and state law set the standard and mandate for nondiscrimination in any public service. SB 492 would amend state law to reinforce that these laws apply to reunification services.

This would restore fairness to our laws that are designed to protect children but also support and acknowledge the vital importance of maintaining family relations when possible and achievable.

You can read our complete testimony here.

You can find more information about today’s Senate Committee hearing on the legislative service website.

Federal Guidance

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) issued technical assistance to assist state and local child welfare agencies and courts to ensure that the welfare of children and families is protected in a manner that also protects the civil rights of parents and prospective parents with disabilities.

The agencies noted “these issues are long-standing and widespread” and highlighted the findings of a 2012 National Council on Disability report:

According to a comprehensive 2012 report from the National Council on Disability (NCD), parents with disabilities are overly, and often inappropriately, referred to child welfare services, and once involved, are permanently separated at disproportionately high rates.

In a review of research studies and other data, NCD concluded that among parents with disabilities, parents with intellectual disabilities and parents with psychiatric disabilities face the most discrimination based on stereotypes, lack of individualized assessments, and failure to provide needed services.

Parents who are blind or deaf also report significant discrimination in the custody process, as do parents with other physical disabilities.

Individuals with disabilities seeking to become foster or adoptive parents also encounter bias and unnecessary barriers to foster care and adoption placements based on speculation and stereotypes about their parenting abilities.

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