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

On Thursday, September 27, 2012, the National Council on Disability (NCD), an independent federal agency, released "Rocking the Cradle: Ensuring the Rights of Parents with Disabilities and Their Children," a groundbreaking policy study, infused with real life stories of parents with disabilities, to provide a comprehensive overview of factors that support and obstruct Americans with all kinds of disabilities from exercising their fundamental right to begin and maintain families.

"Rocking the Cradle" explores the pervasive prejudices faced by parents with disabilities by exposing the disparate treatment often encountered by parents with disabilities and their children within court and service systems and offers draft model state and federal statutory language to correct the discrimination faced by parents with disabilities in the United States.  The full report is available on NCD's website.

Key findings from the report include:

  • Estimates indicate 6.1 million children in the U.S. have parents with disabilities - Nearly 1 in 10, almost 10% of the population.
  • Parents with disabilities are the only distinct community of Americans who struggle to retain custody of their children because of their status.
    • Removal rates of parents with psychiatric disabilities is as high as 70 - 80%
    •   Removal rates of parents with intellectual disabilities is as high as 80%
    •   Extremely high removal rates and loss of parental rights for parents with sensory or physical disabilities.
  • Parents with disabilities are more likely to lose custody of their children after divorce.
  • Prospective parents with disabilities have more difficulty when it comes to accessing reproductive health care such as assisted reproductive technologies.
  • Prospective parents with disabilities face significant barriers to adopting children.
  • In the face of numerous obstacles, hope remains with several programs that show promise, long-term sustainable impact and potential for replication. With more funding, model programs currently serving American parents with disabilities could easily grow and develop nationwide to better serve this often overlooked population.