Attention Massachusetts Residents:
Please take a moment to call or email your state Senator and Representative and ask them to cosponsor HD. 1584 (Lead Sponsor: Rep. Heroux) and SD. 1110 (Lead Sponsor: Sen. L’Italien): An Act prohibiting discrimination against adults with disabilities in family and juvenile court proceedings. This legislation will protect the rights of parents with disabilities in child welfare (DCF) and family law (custody and visitation).
Here are a few key talking points:
- Parents with disabilities lose their children at alarming rates. Parents with disabilities are more likely to lose custody of their children after divorce. Removal rates by child welfare of children from parents with psychiatric or intellectual disabilities is as high as 70-80%. Parents with sensory or physical disabilities also experience extremely high removal rates and loss of their parental rights.
- HD.1584/SD.1110 will require courts to determine whether or not a parent’s disability causes harm to their child, by requiring written findings when courts rely on a parent’s disabilityas a negative factor in a custody or visitation determination. This law will also require courts to determine whether the harm to the child can be alleviated by adaptive equipment or supportive services for the parent.
- Disability alone is not a reason. Reliance on a parent’s disability without explanation is illegal discrimination. Nearly 27 years after the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), adults with disabilities have increased protections in education and work life, but parents with disabilities are still at significant risk to lose their children. A decision to terminate parental rights, remove custody or deny parenting time to a parent based solely on their disability status violates the ADA.
- Keeping families together is good for children. Extensive research shows that children fare better when they remain with their parents. But children of parents with disabilities continue to be inappropriately removed from their homes or separated from their parents without a determination of how the parent’s disability affects their ability to parent.
- HD.1584/SD.1110 is consistent with current Massachusetts case law, federal and state anti-discrimination law, and a trend in state family law.
- HD.1584/SD.1110 will not cost the state money and may even save the state money by preventing unnecessary foster care placements.
To find your legislators’ contact info, visit: https://malegislature.gov