Intro - History - Issues - Rights - Resources - Service
Pregnancy, and removal of children from parents with disabilities
Historically, people with disabilities were actively discouraged by society from having children because it was automatically assumed that they would not cope with child rearing responsibilities. The child’s well being would be neglected as society deemed people with disabilities unable to care for themselves let alone, cope with parenthood. Consequently, if a girl with a disability became pregnant, the pregnancy was often recommended to be terminated, regardless of her rights and wishes. Children born of disabled parents, particularly of parents with intellectual disability were frequently removed at birth by protective services authorities because it was believed to be in the best interests of the child.
Feedback received by the Yooralla Parents With a Disability Community Project at the 1996 Forum and comments we have received from parents with disabilities since indicates that some parents with physical, sensory, psychiatric and intellectual disabilities fear intervention from Child Protection Services. Whether these fears are realised will depend on the nature and extent of the individuals disability, the strength of their support networks and the attitudes of the community around them.
For example, if a notification is made against a parent with a disability, particularly a mother with an intellectual disability, the mother can find she is placed under intense scrutiny to prove why the child should not be removed from her care. (Fuller, 1996).
The distinction between protective concerns and value judgements about the person’s capabilities as a parent can become blurred, leading to stringent conditions being required to be met before the child is returned to the parent’s care. (The Advantage Project, 1996).
If Child Protection authorities are seen to impose conditions on parents with a disability beyond those required of other parents, this action could amount to disability discrimination.
In 1996 the Victorian Department of Human Services (DHS) Disability Services Branch acknowledged that parents with an intellectual disability required additional support and "…funded …a parenting program specifically for parents with an intellectual disability." (Department of Human Services, 1997).
The development of this program and subsequent manual is a good start because it identifies some very useful parenting strategies for use by parents with an intellectual disability including support groups to enable them to become more effective parents. The model used primarily targets parents who have experienced involvement of Child Protection prior to joining the program.
The pilot program highlighted the demand for parenting skills programs and support for parents with a range of disabilities.
This resource manual goes some way towards addressing these parenting needs. However, further work must be done to properly address the various parenting needs of all disabled people with dependent children.