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ABA Adopts Resolution Urging Parental Rights Protections for People with Disabilities

Thursday, April 06, 2017

In February 2017, the American Bar Association adopted ABA Policy Resolution 114, urging government entities to recognize and respect the parental rights of people with disabilities. Historic discrimination means that people with disabilities have often been stripped of their parental rights, or precluded from fostering or adopting children. While various statutory and regulatory disability nondiscrimination mandates apply to the family law context, the ABA Resolution recognizing the importance of this issue to people with disabilities:

"RESOLVED, That the American Bar Association urges all federal, state, territorial, and tribal governments to enact legislation and implement public policy providing that custody, visitation, and access shall not be denied or restricted, nor shall a child be removed or parental rights be terminated, based on a parent's disability, absent a showing—supported by clear and convincing evidence—that the disability is causally related to a harm or an imminent risk of harm to the child that cannot be alleviated with appropriate services, supports, and other reasonable modifications.

FURTHER RESOLVED, That the American Bar Association urges all federal, state, territorial, and tribal governments to enact legislation and implement public policy providing that a prospective parent's disability shall not be a bar to adoption or foster care when the adoption or foster care placement is determined to be in the best interest of the child."

This resolution aligns the ABA with a longstanding decision of the California Supreme Court, which ruled in 1979 that disability does not inherently compromise "the heart of the parent-child relationship." See In Re Marriage of Carney (1979) 24 Cal. 3d 725. The disability community continues its work to protect and advance the rights of people with disabilities to enjoy full parental rights.

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