National Council on Disability

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By Associated Press
Boston Herald


She was 19, a brand-new mother with a developmental disability. Two days after giving birth to her daughter, the state took the infant away and placed her in foster care. Massachusetts child welfare officials contend the young woman couldn’t properly care for a newborn and insist they acted in the child’s best interests. But the federal government disagrees: It says the state violated her civil rights by discriminating against her because of her disability.

In a new report, the Justice Department and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services say the state Department of Children and Families — which has moved to terminate the mother’s parental rights — needs to compensate her and give her a chance to prove she can care for her daughter, or it could face a federal lawsuit.

The National Council on Disability, an independent federal agency advising the White House and Congress, says the case points up a growing problem: states needlessly taking custody of the children of disabled parents.

“Parents with disabilities are suffering significant discrimination,” said Robyn Powell, an attorney for the council. “What happened to this mother is very common … States are removing these children for the sole reason of their parents having a disability.”

Now 21, and identified in the federal report only by the pseudonym “Sara Gordon,” the young woman’s ordeal began as she was still recovering from childbirth in November 2012.

The National Council on Disability has documented similar cases across the country, including a Kansas City, Missouri, couple who had their daughter taken into state custody because they were both blind, and a quadriplegic mother in Chicago who waged a lengthy legal battle to keep custody of her son.

“This mother has good supports. There are no issues of substance abuse or domestic violence,” said Mark Watkins, a lawyer for the mother. “I have complete confidence in the ability of this family to parent this child safely.”

Read the full article here.