Parental Rights & Disabilities

Despite the Americans with Disabilities Act (1992), we are still seeing discrimination in the area of parental rights due to disabilities. Parents with disabilities find their rights taken away on account of their disability, while parents of children with disabilities find their rights questioned.

Parents with Disabilities

35 states include disability as grounds for termination of parental rights; 2/3 of dependency statutes allow the court to determine that a parent is unfit on the basis of a disability; and D.C. and 9 states (GA, KS, MD, MS, ND, NM, OH, OK, & SC) allow physical disability as the sole grounds for terminating parental rights, even without evidence of abuse or neglect [1]. Further, the shameful eugenics-era Buck v. Bell decision[2] remains the precedent for removing family privacy rights, including parental rights, from persons with disabilities.

News Stories - Parental Rights & Parents with Disabilities

Note: Parental Rights Foundations does not necessarily agree with all views expressed in these articles. They are provided here to give a glimpse into what is happening in the news.

Report by the National Council on Disability

Rocking the CradleThe National Council on Disability’s 2012 Report, Rocking the Cradle, points out a number of issues of discrimination that parents with disabilities or parents of children with disabilities must face far too often. The rate at which their decisions are second-guessed and their parental rights threatened is unconscionable. You may not have time to read the full 445-page report, but the Executive Summary (starting at page 13) gets to the heart of the issue in only a few pages.

Removal rates where parents have a psychiatric disability have been found to be as high as 70 percent to 80 percent; where the parent has an intellectual disability, 40 percent to 80 percent. In families where the parental disability is physical, 13 percent have reported discriminatory treatment in custody cases. Parents who are deaf or blind report extremely high rates of child removal and loss of parental rights. Parents with disabilities are more likely to lose custody of their children after divorce, have more difficulty in accessing reproductive health care, and face significant barriers to adopting children.

Read report.


[1] Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation, Parenting with a Disability: Know Your Rights Toolkit (Short Hills, NJ: Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation, 2016), 4–5. This stat has been marginally (but fortunately) reduced by new state laws passed in the last 6 months. 

[2] Buck v. Bell, 274 U.S. 200 (1927).

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Children with Special Needs

disability photoWe'd like to post a big shout-out to all parents of children with special needs! Know that we're working hard to protect children by empowering those who know and love them best--their parents.

After all, you know your child. Their special needs make them one-of-a-kind. And no one knows that one like you.

Yet your right to make important decisions for your child is not firmly protected by law. More and more, the government is taking charge, doctors or “experts” are making the decisions, and parents are being removed from the equation.

The tragedies of Charlie Gard and Alfie Evans in the United Kingdom have shown us where this leads: where parents stand helplessly by while the state makes decisions for their child.

The stories below illustrate how parents of children with special needs have had their parental rights questioned.

Parental Rights News Stories About Parents of Children with Disabilities

Note: Parental Rights Foundations does not necessarily agree with all views expressed in these articles. They are provided here to give a glimpse into what is happening in the news.

This information was brought to you through the partnership of people like you.