Doing More For Children Who Have Disable Parents

The goal of our website is spreading awareness about the massive obstacles that children with disabilities must face while growing up in today’s society. But sometimes it helps to flip that societal problem on its head and ask a different question: What can we do to better help children who grow up with parents with disabilities? Both groups of people often struggle. The Rhode Island State Senate recently passed a bill that could help the latter.

Senator Louis P. DiPalma (D-District 12, Middletown, Little Compton, Newport, and Tiverton) was recently able to push through a bill that would prevent entitlement refusal for disabled parents. In part, the bill aims to reduce the stigma that disabled folks must endure.

DiPalma said, “Individuals with disabilities continue to face unfair, preconceived, and unnecessary societal biases, as well as antiquated attitudes regarding their ability to successfully parent their own children. This leads to new parents with disabilities being unnecessarily referred to social workers and governmental staff for evaluations of their parenting abilities to provide proper care and environments for their children, based solely upon erroneous assumptions about the parent’s disability.”

In other words, it will be more difficult for the state to refuse disability payments based on the misconceptions or ignorance of neighbors.

DiPalma says that the way the system has worked up until now “is unfair, unjust, and may also have serious effects on children who may be denied the opportunity to live in a loving home with parents or caretakers who also have disabilities. Our society is strongest with strong family environments so we should not eliminate loving homes for our kids simply because a parent has a disability.”

The new bill requires relevant service providers to receive increased education about those parents who have disabilities. These providers include medical personnel, child protective services, lawyers, prosecutors, and judges — especially wherein the overall welfare of children is concerned when the potential for foster care or adoption exists.

The bill precludes a parent from being referred to child protective services on only the basis of a disability. Whereas this concept is great in theory, it’s difficult to predict how it will be put into practice — especially when those same prejudices about the ability of parents with disabilities to do their job result in the misconception about how and why a parent might not be successful. 

The party making an allegation must now collect relevant evidence and prove the case — which means neighbors are less likely to try. The welfare of a child must be in clear and present danger for state action to be recommended and taken.