What does it mean to be a "fit parent"?
Posted on May 23, 2011 by Megan Burke
Patti has been raising her two children (five and twelve years old) with assistance from her parents. She is currently in a custody battle with the father of her five year old as he believes she can’t meet the needs of the child due to her disability. She has gone through testing to prove she is a capable parent, and yet she has to continue to fight this battle of discrimination. Her parenting record should influence the custody decision and not prejudices about her disability. Read more of Patti’s story: Disabled Mom Fights for Custody (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, May 23, 2011)
A disability should not be the measure of whether or not someone is a “fit parent”. Patti’s story hits home, because she is a part of our local community . . . one of us. Yet her story is all too familiar. Over the last several months there have been a number of stories of parents with disabilities being denied their right to parent. We’ve referenced the story of a blind couple in Independence, MOwho had their newborn baby taken from them for two months. A nurse at the hospital did not think they could care for the baby due to being blind, and they had to prove otherwise. Their child was eventually returned to them. Another woman in CA had to fight just to get visitation time with her children as her ex-husband thought it would be too traumatic for the children to see her because of her disability.
Paraquad fought to get a law passed which would help ensure the rights of parents with disabilities. This new law says that the state cannot remove a child from the home solely because a parent has a disability. Although this new law does not apply to family court cases such as Patti’s, it provides hope in the battle to end discrimination. More work needs to be done to ensure the rights of parents with disabilities, but progress is being made.