There is an increasing body of research indicating that individuals with disabilities can effectively parent with appropriate services and supports. Child welfare professionals should be equipped with the information and expertise necessary to ensure these parents can be safely reunified with their children. Case workers should be aware of how reasonable accommodations requirements provided by both the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (for agencies receiving Federal funding) may affect the case. The following resources highlight some of the unique challenges and best practices of working toward reunification with a parent who has a disability.
The Association for Supported Parenting
Provides a website that links to important information aimed to enhance the well-being of at-risk parents with learning difficulties and their children.
The Child Welfare System: Removal, Reunification, and Termination
National Council on Disability (2012)
Rocking the Cradle: Ensuring the Rights of Parents with Disabilities and Their Children
Examines the treatment of parents with disabilities and their families involved with child welfare, including reunification.
Child Welfare Practice With Parents Who Have Cognitive Limitations
North Carolina Division of Social Services & Family and Children's Resource Program (2004)
Children’s Services Practice Notes, 9(2)
Offers eight articles on various topics related to serving parents with an intellectual disability.
Comprehensive, Competence-Based Parenting Assessment for Parents With Learning Difficulties and Their Children
Feldman & Aunos (2010)
Provides a comprehensive methodology for a research-based parenting assessment process, which deals with the challenge of balancing children’s rights to safety and nurturing with the rights of their parents.
Guidelines for Assessment and Intervention With Persons With Disabilities
American Psychological Association (2012)
Provides a guide that is designed to help psychologists conceptualize and implement more effective, fair, and ethical psychological assessments and interventions with persons with disabilities. The guidelines provide suggestions on ways psychologists can make their practices more accessible and disability-sensitive, and how they might enhance their working relationships with clients with disabilities. Additionally, the guidelines provide information on how psychologists can obtain more education, training, and experience with disability-related matters and offers guidelines for custody evaluations. The American Psychological Association, also provides guidelines for child custody evaluations.
The Intersection of Child Welfare and Disability: Focus on Parents (PDF - 1,413 KB)
University of Minnesota, Center for Advanced Studies in Child Welfare (2013)
Provides information about serving parents with disabilities in child welfare systems, including an overview of the prevalence and population of parents with disabilities and mental illness in child welfare; practice strategies and policy recommendations for supporting parents with disabilities and mental illnesses; and innovative examples of collaboration and communication across systems.
Maintaining Families When Parents Have Disabilities (PDF - 46 KB)
American Bar Association (2009)
Child Law Practice, 28(9)
Provides information and resources that assist parent’s attorneys and children’s representatives to effectively work to support parents who have a disability when their child(ren) have been removed from their care.
Modifying the ‘Positive Parenting Program' for Parents With Intellectual Disabilities (PDF - 112 KB)
Glazemakers & Deboutte (2012)
Journal of Intellectual Disability Research
Outlines a pilot study that found a research-informed adaptation of mainstream behavioral family interventions, such as the group Positive Parenting Program (Triple P), could make ‘suitable support’ more readily available and more engaging for parents with an intellectual disability.
Representing Parents With Disabilities in Child Protection Proceedings (PDF - 766 KB)
Michigan Child Welfare Law Journal
Outlines the difficulties parents with disabilities face in the child welfare system, including legal processes and barriers related to reunification.
Rocking the Cradle: Ensuring the Rights of Parents With Disabilities and Their Children
National Council on Disability (2012)
Provides a comprehensive review of the barriers that people with diverse disabilities—including intellectual and developmental, psychiatric, sensory, and physical disabilities—experience when exercising their fundamental right to create and maintain families, as well explores the discrimination parents with disabilities may face. The report also analyzes how U.S. disability law and policy apply to parents with disabilities in the child welfare and family law systems.
Strategies and Adaptations in Working With Parents With Intellectual Disabilities
Corbus, Hansen, & Tuleja (2006)
Provides a module from Through the Looking Glass that outlines behavioral indicators of intellectual disabilities and strategies for engagement, intervention, and adaptive approaches for supporting parents with intellectual disabilities.
Supporting Parents With Psychiatric Disabilities: A Model Reunification Statute (PDF - 219 KB)
Scott, Mathis, & Burnim (2012)
UPenn Collaborative on Community Integration & Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law
Provides a template for States to ensure that their laws reflect the requirements of the Americans With Disabilities Act, that appropriate protections are in place to prevent the unnecessary separation of families, and that reunification services are modified as needed.