What You Need To Do To Have A Chance To Keep Your Child

There are many harmful myths about people with intellectual and developmental disabilities being parents. Best practices demonstrate how parents with disabilities can learn the skills they need as parents. These guidelines and suggestions are geared to:

  • Build on strengths
  • Break down a task into small teachable steps
  • Demonstrate and then lets you practice
  • Use pictures or video
  • Give enough time to learn
  • Effective teaching is best when it is…
    • one-to-one
    • in your home

Are You Ready For A Baby?

  • Have you had enough time to be on your own and make your own decisions?
  • Have you had the chance to enjoy your freedom?
  • Having a baby will take away a lot of your freedom. You will never again be as free as your were before you had a baby. The baby always comes first.

What You Can Do To Get Ready

  • Identify your support system and get them to help you plan for the baby. The most successful parents are the ones who have a good support system. Sometimes this is extended family, but only if they believe in your ability. Often it is a trusted support coordinator or case-manager or reliable friends.
  • DON’T try to do it alone. Every parent needs help. It’s a very big job, and there will be times when you are tired and discouraged. You might think you can keep away from people’s attention, but usually this doesn’t work.
  • Get good medical care, and follow what the doctor says.
  • Make all your appointments.
  • If you or your partner have been told you have an anger problem, get into an anger management class or counseling as soon as possible, even if you think you don’t need it. This will help people know you care about keeping your baby safe.
  • Think about making your home safe for a baby. Learn how to “child-proof” your home, and get things in place like plug covers and safety gates.
  • Stop smoking and get other people in your house to stop smoking or only smoke outside.
  • Find out if there are any parenting skills classes that are adapted for parents with disabilities

Get a copy of a very useful book which can help you teach yourself: Step by Step Child Care, Feldman & Case, 1993. It costs $50. Order it directly from the author, Maurice Feldman [email protected]

When You are in the Hospital

  • You will be very, very tired after having a baby, but always show interest in your baby, no matter how tired you are.
  • Better not watch TV while you are there, because you can get distracted from your baby.

If a Child Protection Agency gets Involved

Remember that your case worker is most likely a good person, but…

  • Most don’t have experience with people with disabilities
  • Most believe the myths because they haven’t had the chance to learn otherwise

Working with Child Protection Agencies

They have a very different culture from disability rights culture. The most important idea in disability rights culture is that you should have a full life. Whereas, he most important idea in child protection culture is that the child must be safe.

In disability culture, we believe in…

  1. Dignity of Risk
  2. Presuming your competence
  3. “Nothing about us without us.” Self-Determination

In child protection culture, they believe in…

  1. Minimizing risk
  2. Questioning your competence
  3. Making decisions “in the best interest of the child”

Remember that they really care about your baby; they just need to know that you do too!

Should You Tell them About Your Disability?

  • Ask your lawyer what he or she thinks. Some think it’s best to try to hide the disability so that it can’t be used against you. BUT, if you tell them you have a disability, then you are protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
  • If you tell them up front that you have a disability, they will need to make accommodations for you. This may help you get more time to learn to be a good parent, and more supports.
  • If you wait until they decide to “terminate your parental rights,” you can’t use your disability as an argument.

How to Work Successfully with Child Protection Agencies

  • Get along with your case worker! Be pleasant, be compliant and be grateful, no matter how hard it is. Your case worker can be your best ally or your worst opponent. Be smart. They have the power. Remember this will go on for a long time, but you need to be patient.
  • In the disability world, you can ask to change your support coordinator or case manager. That won’t work in the child protection world.
  • In the disability world, you can complain to someone higher if you don’t like the way things are going. That won’t work in the child protection world.
  • Accept supports. You may not like having people come into your home, but you are doing this for your child. Your privacy is not as important as keeping your child. Child protection will feel more confident if you have supports in your life to help out.

At the Visits

  • NEVER miss a visit, no matter how hard it is to get there.
  • If your visits are at the child protection agency, remember that there is usually a two-way mirror, and they are watching you.
  • Never ask another family to watch your child while you leave for a moment.
  • Never complain to other families there about your problems with the agency. It is very important for you to find someone outside the agency that you can talk to about problems, but never talk about it in front of your child.

What About Your Partner?

  • If your partner has had an anger problem, anger management classes may be necessary.
  • If child protection is still worried about your partner’s anger problems, you may need to choose your child over your partner.

Working with Your Lawyer

  • Remember that lawyers are very busy so be on time and use the time well. Try to get along well with your lawyer, as they can fight hard for you.
  • If someone asks for a psychological assessment, talk to your lawyer about getting one from someone with experience with people with disabilities.

Going to Court

  • Be on time, and well-dressed. Appearances are important.
  • You may be able to have a support person with you to help you understand what’s going on. That person shouldn’t give you advice, though. The lawyer will give you advice.
  • Be very courteous to the judge. When you answer questions, try to look at the judge, even if the lawyers are asking the questions.
  • It will be very stressful, but don’t let your emotions show. If it is getting too hard to stay calm, you can ask for a short break.

No matter how hard all this is:

  • You can do it because you care about your child. If you get your child back, it is all worth it.
  • If the worst happens and you don’t get your child back, always remember that you gave your child the best gift of all – life.

More Information

For further information contact:

The Association For Successful Parenting: We are dedicated to enhancing the well-being of at-risk parents with learning difficulties and their children. This primarily includes parents who may be identified as persons with intellectual disabilities or borderline intellectual functioning.

Through the Looking Glass (TLG): A national center that has pioneered research, training, and services for families in which a child, parent or grandparent has a disability or medical issue. TLG is a disability community based nonprofit organization, which emerged from the independent living movement, and was founded in 1982 in Berkeley, California. Our mission is “To create, demonstrate and encourage non-pathological and empowering resources and model early intervention services for families with disability issues in parent or child which integrate expertise derived from personal disability experience and disability culture.”

Date posted: April 18, 2012. Content created by Self Advocates Becoming Empowered. Last updated: June 27, 2013.

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