Disability is no bar to good parenting

I want to bring the issue of parenting by disabled parents to your attention. It seems that unfortunately disabled parents are presumed to be incompetent, inadequate or not good enough by the courts and authorities. This is simply unacceptable – if the disabled parents are not coping then they should be provided with help and assistance and not have their children taken from them.

This sad presumption against a disabled parent is born out in the story found here. A disabled mother was coping quite well looking after her child but the father’s relatives, who were not disabled, and had far greater financial resources, wanted custody and care of the child and unfortunately after a long court battle won out.

It should be in the child’s best interests to be raised by their natural, biological parent unless there is some real real risk of harm or neglect – in this case there was neither.

This is a situation that must be stopped. It has alarming similarities to the stolen generation where children were taken from aboriginals just because of a presumption of incompetence and that others knew better. This is happening again here – welfare agencies and the courts are presuming that the desire and money of better off relatives should triumph over the love and care of the disabled parent.

Victoria’s public advocate speaks out about the situation in this article and it is also well worth reading.

What about the Australian Human Rights Commission? What is their view on this situation?

The AHRC has not spoken officially about the situation yet. The Federal Disability Commissioner, Graeme Innes, is a disabled parent himself so hopefully he will speak out with a strong view.

The AHRC needs to intervene in any of these court cases that arise and defend the rights of the disabled parent.

Please lets not create another stolen generation.

I can also personally vouch for the adverse presumption and negative feelings of Australian welfare departments. I, and my then wife, were applying to become adoptive parents (through international adoption) in Australia. We dealt with 2 different state agencies as we moved house due to my wife’s job commitments during the process. One agency, Western Australia, was entirely supportive and saw no problem with me (I’m blind) becoming a parent.

We unfortunately had to leave WA and the new Department didn’t feel the same way. They were entirely negative and felt there was no way I could look after children on my own, and barely cope with assistance. There are many blind parents coping quite fine but they didn’t seem to care about that. We protested through the Ombudsman and took the matter up with our local member of Parliament and eventually the Department agreed to re-open the case but they had a very hostile attitude and the situation still seemed hopeless.

There just seems to be a real negative attitude to disabled people as parents and a presumption that we can’t cope. Please spread the word that this just isn’t good enough and needs changing.

Disabled parents love their children just as much as anyone else and can care for them just as well as a non disabled parent. Lets get rid of this negative stereotype please.

Dale.

About Dale Reardon

Dale Reardon is a blind PhD student living in Hobart Tasmania, Australia. He is undertaking his PhD in discrimination law focusing on enforcement of discrimination laws and the adequacy of remedies provided.
Apart from studying for his PhD in discrimination law he helps people moving to Tasmania. If you have queries regarding relocating to Tasmania then please get in touch.

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