Disabled Parents Face Child Custody Challenges

It is human nature to be biased against what is not comprehended. People have made some poor choices in life just because they knew little or nothing about the alternative. It is from this mindset that so many disabled people are prejudged before they are understood. Their limitations are noticed long before their talents and capabilities are discovered. As a result, countless parents have found themselves in drawn out custody battles. Despite the passing of the Americans With Disabilities Act in 1990, they’ve still had to prove that being blind or deaf does not take away their rights to be parents.

According to the comprehensive report “Rocking the Cradle: Ensuring the Rights of Parents with Disabilities and Their Children,” approximately 6.1 million U.S. children have disabled parents. These children are more likely to be taken from their parents than those without disabilities. One example was Erika Johnson, a mother who had her two-day-old baby taken from her when the nurse reported that a blind mother was having trouble breastfeeding. During the 57-day custody battle, Erika argued that many sighted moms have trouble breastfeeding in the beginning.

As with any story, there are always (at least) two sides. “At the end of the day, the child’s interest in having permanence and stability has to be the priority over the interests of their parents,” said Judith Schagrin, a child-welfare administrator. Can a deaf person hear the baby cry? Can a blind person see when a child is about to do something harmful?. Since Erika Johnson won her case, she has offered support to other disabled parents fighting for the right to keep their children. And there have been no more concerns about her ability has a mother.


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Our team includes attorneys licensed to practice in multiple states including April D. Jones in California, Patrick G. Barkman in Texas, the Cherokee Nation, the Northern District of Texas, and the District of Colorado (United States Court of Appeals 10th and 5th Circuit).