Parents with Disabilities in Child Welfare, Part 2: Parents with Disabilities and related Policies

Parents with Disabilities in Child Welfare, Part 2: Parents with Disabilities and related Policies


Hello and welcome to the series of online
training modules on parents with disabilities in child welfare. My name is Mingyang Zheng. I am a doctoral student at the School of Social
Work, University of Minnesota. This training is a collaborative effort between
faculty at the University of Minnesota School of Social Work and the Center for Advanced
Studies in Child Welfare at the School of Social Work at the University of Minnesota. This training module is part of an online
training effort that covers a wide range of topic areas in child welfare. This training module has three parts, each part is about 20 minutes. In part one, we will talk about historical context
and prevalence for parents with disabilities in child welfare. In part two, we will talk about parents with disabilities
and related policies. In part 3, we will discuss social supports for
parents with disabilities. So in this part, let’s explore parents with
disabilities and related policies. There are 3 learning objectives for this online module. People who complete this training will be able to: identify various policies that are related
to parents with disabilities in child welfare; demonstrate how policies can impact parents with disabilities; and identify current policy gaps in parents with disabilities. In part 2, we will mainly focus on policies
that affect parents with disabilities. First, we will talk about the Americans with
Disabilities Act, also known as ADA. Then, we will discuss the Adoption and Safe
Families Act, also known as ASFA. Lastly, we will discuss state laws that affect
parents with disabilities. So, what is the Americans with Disabilities Act? It is an anti-discrimination law banning discrimination
based on disabilities. It was signed into law on July 26, 1990. According to the Americans with Disabilities Act, its purposes are to provide a clear and comprehensive national mandate for the elimination of discrimination
against individuals with disabilities; to provide clear, strong, consistent,
enforceable standards addressing discrimination against individuals with disabilities;
to ensure that the federal government plays a central role in enforcing the standards
established in this act on behalf of individuals with disabilities; and to invoke the sweep of congressional authority, including the power to enforce the fourteenth
amendment and to regulate commerce, in order to address the major areas of discrimination
faced day-to-day by people with disabilities. In 2008, the Americans with Disabilities Act
Amendments Act was signed into law by President George W. Bush. It became effective
on January 1, 2009. Some significant changes were made in the
Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act. For example, it broadened the definition of
disability. There are 4 major parts in ADA. Title I is about employment. It is designed to help people with disabilities
access the same employment opportunities and benefits available to people without disabilities. Title II is about state and local government
services. It prohibits discrimination against qualified
individuals with disabilities in all programs, activities, and services of public entities. This applies to all state and local governments,
their departments and agencies, and any other instrumentalities or special purpose districts
of state or local government. Title III is public accommodations. It prohibits private places of public accommodation
from discriminating against individuals with disabilities. Title IV is telecommunications. It requires telephone and Internet companies
to provide a nationwide system of interstate and intrastate telecommunications relay services
that allows individuals with hearing and speech disabilities to communicate over the telephone. Due to limited time, we will focus on discussing
Title II in this module. As we mentioned in the previous slide, the
purpose of Title II is to prohibit discrimination on the basis of disability by public entities. It covers state and local agencies Title II also requires states to make modifications
to programs or services that deny equal access to people with disabilities. So, what is modification you may ask? An ADA modification is a modification to policies,
practices, or procedures to avoid discrimination and ensure program accessibility. That being said, child welfare protection
agencies are required to make ADA modifications when they are working with parents with disabilities
who require modification. A modification could be a sign language interpreter
for the person who speaks American sign language as their primary language. Or a modification could include modifying assessments
to be accessible to parents with disabilities. A modification could be modifying a parent
training class so that it could be accessible to parents with disabilities. In 2015, a new guidance that aims to protect the rights of parents and prospective parents with disabilities was published by the U.S. Department of Health
and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Justice. This guidance was based on Title II of the
Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. The purpose of this guidance is to assist
state and local child welfare agencies and courts to ensure that the welfare of children
and families is protected in a manner that also protects the civil rights of parents
and prospective parents. The Adoption and Safe Families Act, also called ASFA
is also relevant to working with parents with disabilities. The Adoption and Safe Families Act was signed into law in 1997 and it had three goals. Child safety, which is the paramount concern that must
guide all child welfare services. Permanency, meaning that foster care is temporary. Permanency planning efforts should begin as soon as the child enters care. Lastly, child well-being. ASFA signals a shift away from the focus on
family preservation and included a new emphasis on accountability. A significant aspect of the legislation directs
child welfare workers and agencies to make what is termed “reasonable efforts” to
prevent unnecessary removal of a child and to reunify children with their parents Reasonable efforts are not required, when
the parent has willfully abandoned the child, parent has murdered or attempted to kill a child, parent has committed a felonious assault, parent has had parental rights terminated to another child. ASFA also has requirements for states to begin
termination of parental rights proceedings. When a child has been in foster care for 15
of the most recent 22 months, the state is required to begin termination of parental
rights proceedings. States are also required to begin TPR proceedings when a child is an abandoned infant. States are also required to terminate parental rights when the courts have determined the parent has committed murder
of another child of the parent; committed voluntary manslaughter of another child of
the parent; aided or abetted, attempted, conspired, or solicited to commit such a murder or such
a voluntary manslaughter; or committed a felony assault that results in serious bodily injury
to the child or another child of the parent. Because of these new rules of ASFA, many states changed their termination of parental rights statutes in the last 10 or so years. All 50 states and DC have state statutes outlining
grounds for terminating parental rights. Some have long lists of specific grounds of terminating parental rights. Others are more vague. For example, eleven states use a common combination
of disability types, such as emotional illness, mental illness, and mental deficiency. Such vaguely worded state statutes tie disability
with a parent’s inability to care for the child but are not specific in what this means
or how child protection and the courts should interpret the statutes. Of course, the advantage of vague language is that it
allows child protection authorities and the courts flexibility to adapt interventions
and findings to best meet the specific needs of each case. However, vague laws can also lead to imbalanced
interpretation and enforcement, as previous court studies have found. Also, almost all states have grounds related to past or current parental behavior. All states have modified their laws in regards
to Adoption and Safe Families Act requirements. They have all added the timelines. For example, 12 months is the time limit for
filing a termination of parental rights for older children in Minnesota and they have all included requirements for
termination of parental rights as we discussed above, such as murder of a child, felonious assault resulting in serious bodily injury, and abandonment. So, how does ADA interact with ASFA? ADA cannot be used as a defense in termination of parental rights in many states, however, ADA can be used if child welfare services are not modified. Lightfoot and LaLiberte conducted a study
analyzing the state codes of the 50 states and District of Columbia relating to termination of parental rights. Their findings showed that three-quarters
of the states included disability-related grounds for termination of parental rights
in 2007, ten years after the passage of ASFA. The vast majority of these 37 states used outdated
terminology when referring to parents with disabilities using language such as “mentally deficient”,
used imprecise definitions of disability or no definitions of disability at all, and emphasized
the condition of having a disability rather than behaviors that parents were demonstrating. States that do not have disability in their
state child welfare laws do have language that allows the state to remove children from
parents with disabilities or from any other parent based on behaviors not on conditions. For example, the state of Maine, the statute stated that: the parent is unwilling or unable to protect
the child from jeopardy and these circumstances are unlikely to change within a time which
is reasonably calculated to meet the child’s needs; the parent has been unwilling or unable to
take responsibility for the child within a time which is reasonably calculated to meet
the child’s needs. These states have case law to support removing
a child because a parent with a disability failed to provide appropriate care. This is focused on the behavior of the parent,
not whether the parent has a disability status or not. After Lightfoot and LaLiberte’s study,
a legislative change project was established to create model statutory language to remove
discriminatory language that focused on conditions and for states to focus on behaviors of parents rather than conditions. The project also introduced the concept of
parental support, which we will be discussing in part 3. Since the legislative change project, we have
seen a trend in state statutes related to termination
of parental rights to abolish the disability language. Several states have recently abolished the disability
language and the number of states with disability language has gone down since 2007. For more information regarding disability
in state child protection laws, see the map of current state legislation
supporting parents with disabilities. It is worth mentioning that the state of Colorado
just passed a new law that protects rights of parents with disabilities. The law states that a parent’s disability
must not serve as a basis for denial or restriction of parenting time or parental responsibilities, and a parent’s disability must not serve as a basis for denial of participation in a public or private adoption,
or for denial of foster care or guardianship when it is otherwise determined to be in the
best interest of the child. The new national attention to parents with
disabilities in the child welfare system has led to the National Council on Disability
releasing a report entitled Rocking the Cradle. Rocking the Cradle calls for a change of the laws
and child welfare practices related to parenting with a disability. They have come up with 20 recommendations. Two of the most important recommendations are, first, disability should not be used as grounds for termination of parental rights and ADA should be allowed as defense. Second, parental supports should be taken into account in
court proceedings. So to sum up, in this module, we have discussed the Americans with Disabilities Act and its amendment act. We also discussed Adoption & Safe Families
Act and its purposes. Lastly, we also have discussed the state laws regarding
the grounds for termination of parental rights that are related to parental disabilities. Congratulations, now you have completed the second part of the training. If you are ready, now you can go to the third part of the training.

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