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Disabled Parenting Discrimination in Family Courts

July 9, 2014 in due process, family court, family rights

I am a disabled parent who had five beautiful children. I was born at only 24 weeks gestation and had brain damage that caused cerebral palsy. I grew up enjoying a normal childhood in farming country, building dens, playing in hay stacks and having a free run of our village.

English: A collection of pictograms. Three of ...

A collection of pictograms. Three of them used by the United States National Park Service.

I married my childhood sweetheart at the age of 18, gave birth to a son. After five months, I took an evening job as a receptionist to support us as my husband went through university. A few years later and after giving birth to four more children and helping out in my husband’s electrical store, he dropped a bombshell, he didn’t want to be married anymore, he’d tied himself down too young by being with me. I thought at the time that was the worst day of my life but it was nothing compared to the custody nightmare that was about to follow. After obtaining a residency order in my favor, he locked me in our home and left with all our children, including my three week old newborn baby. I was absolutely frantic and called the police.

Police Discrimination

I showed them my court order but they informed me that as I had married the father of my children, all they were prepared to do was do a ‘safe and well’ check, despite the fact that my newborn was totally breastfed and dependent. After leaving, telling me rather curtly that ‘There’s more than one way to feed a baby’, I was forced to beg my ex-husband on the telephone for the return of our children. 24 hours later, he returned only my two year old and newborn, keeping my older children at an unknown location.

CPS Interrogation

From the moment the police had been called, CPS got involved and that was the start of a two year harassment campaign from them, most of it centred around my disability. They asserted incorrectly that I was not able to bath my babies because I had refused to answer what I viewed as discriminatory questioning about my parenting skills and I was told I had to consent to a social worker coming in to bath my children every day and if I didn’t, they’d be removed from me.

On one occasion they broke down my front door when I had gone out. People would turn up unannounced to ‘spot check’ me and they kept this up for a two year duration. I was court ordered to attend a parenting class but I refused to comply, saying that I had successfully cared for my children for years while my husband was working and didn’t need any classes. I asked why my able bodied husband was not asked to attend a class and I was told he didn’t need one as he didn’t have my disabilities.

On meeting me for the first time, the first words from the guardian ad litem’s mouth were “Oh goodness, how do you cope?” Not hello, or nice to meet you . I knew from that point that I was in for a rough ride.

Court Bias

When the case went to court, I discovered that the police had failed to honor my court order because ‘there were disability issues’. I was shocked and appalled that in the 21st century, people could still be deemed unfit to be a parent because they are disabled.

By the time all the interviews had been conducted, more than seven months had passed so when it finally went to court, the judge said the older children had been with their father for months and it would be cruel to move them so he awarded him custody – a delay that only happened because of the fact that I had to prove myself fit to parent and as a disabled woman I had higher standards to meet than your average able parent.

Fast forward a whole decade and my ex-husband was still pursuing me through the courts for custody. After being diagnosed with ankylosing spondylitis in 2010, my health deteriorated. I had to have major surgery. This was brought up in court and it was asserted I was not ‘fit’ enough to be a mother, despite having hired help. I was also accused of abusing prescription drugs because I had to take medications. It was inferred by the Guardian ad litem that my children may be acting as ‘carers’ for me, in spite of my assistant’s employment with me. Shockingly, the court allowed all these accusations to be levelled against me. I was informed I had to answer questions about my disability because my health was the reason my ability to parent was under scrutiny.

I was allowed to keep my two youngest children but I shouldn’t have had more than a decade of my life trying to defend my right to be a parent just because I was born disabled.

No Disabled Parents Rights

I found out that there is no law to protect the relationship between a disabled parent and their children. The American’s with Disabilities Act doesn’t have a section on parenting and two thirds of dependency statutes allow a court to determine that a parent is ‘unfit’ on the basis that they are disabled.

Disabled parents frequently struggle to retain custody and are the only group of people where it is legal to discriminate against them. Up to 80% of parents with an intellectual disability will have their children removed. For physical disabilities the rate is 40% or higher and for those with physical disabilities going through custody disputes, 13% will be treated unfairly on the basis of disability. Parents who have psychological disabilities such as bipolar disorder or anorexia will very often have their children removed if they come under the radar of the authorities. In addition – sometimes a disabled parent will be denied the right to any visitation because of court judgements that are stereotypical and the court assumption that children will be forced into ‘caring’ roles with their parent, a view that doesn’t support what researchers have found.

After my experiences I have launched an official complaint with the government and I hope to create amendments to disability discrimination laws so that child custody cannot be decided on the basis of disability. I also hope to outlaw interrogation about disability so that in the absence of any real child protection concerns, disabled parents shouldn’t have to ‘prove’ they can be parents.

Sources:

Kidjacked, accessed July 6, 2014, http://kidjacked.com/

Americans with Disabilities Act, U.S Department of Education, accessed July 6, 2014, http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/docs/hq9805.html

Parents with Learning Difficulties, Child Protection and the Courts, accessed July 6, 2014, http://disability-studies.leeds.ac.uk/files/library/Booth-parents-with-lea-diff.pdf

Rocking the Cradle: Ensuring the Rights of Parents with Disabilities and their Children, National Council on Disability, accessed July 6, 2014, http://www.ncd.gov/publications/2012/Sep272012/

The Family Law System: Custody and Visitation, National Council on Disability, accessed July 6, 2014, http://www.ncd.gov/publications/2012/Sep272012/Ch7

Determining the Best Interests of the Child, Child Welfare Information Gateway, accessed July 6, 2014, https://www.childwelfare.gov/systemwide/laws_policies/statutes/best_interest.pdf

Find the Best Anorexic Treatment Programs and Dual Diagnosis Rehabs, Bulimia.com, accessed July 6, 2014, http://www.bulimia.com/topics/anorexia/

When a Parent has an Eating Disorder, The New York Times, accessed July 6, 2014, http://consults.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/07/20/adult-children-of-eating-disordered-parents/

What Happens?

February 6, 2014 in biological parents, child abuse

What happens when CPS has been called by several different individuals, mainly a doctor and two non-custodial parents from both sides, and CPS does nothing.

For instance, in a case where there’s a household of children and there are custody disputes open, the custodial parent just brushes it off, denies everything, tells the CPS worker that the ex is just trying to cause trouble. The CPS caseworker believes his lies, and closes the report as found nothing.

Meanwhile, the father continues to put the children in harms way and abuses them. The father can then take those CPS reports and use them as evidence in court that he’s a good guy, even though the truth is he’s not. What happens then?

The case I just described is happening in West Monroe, Louisiana at this very moment. This type of corruption needs to stop. Just look at what they did to Jamie Mercer and her poor (killed by the custodial parents) daughter Celeste in 2011.

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Nevada: Wealthy Grandparents

December 22, 2013 in CPS, family court, Nevada

My grandson was Kidjacked!

The paternal grandparents are super wealthy and are most likely paying people off to get this baby to stay with them. Devastating to my daughter and myself maternal grandmother. He didn’t need CPS, but somehow it went from family court to me as safety for one week, then CPS and next thing they have him in their home.

Long story. Would love to share.

Makes no sense to me that they don’t have time for the kids that need intervention, while they are busy working this case and coming up with false accusations. I was the grandmother that watched him all the time on weekends, while my daughter worked and now I don’t get to see him for months.

The wealthy grandparents had no interest in him until their son lost temporary custody in family court. He has two other boys he can’t visit w/o supervision and doesn’t bother, but judge Porter gave him temporary custody until he got a DUI. He even failed drug test, same judges courtroom in 2012.

Meanwhile my daughter was on rx and marijuana card for migraines. Now she’s not getting visits and says ” she’s lost her soul.”  I can’t have him because of accusations of myself and daughter “dynamics.”  Nobody had even been around us but guardian ad litem.

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Nevada DFS: LIES

December 22, 2013 in Child Protective Services, corruption, Nevada

My child was kidnapped by my ex-husband while he was being investigated for sexually abusing our toddler. The police said that the doctors opinions that the child had been assaulted wasn’t enough to make an arrest, they needed his DNA inside her, or a video of him committing the act.

CPS was called by the doctors, and the state of Nevada’s own state child therapist diagnosed my baby with PTSD, from a sexual assault that the therapist believed occurred at the hands of her father. The CPS caseworker said she had no case, and to stop wasting her time, she turned the investigation on me, then made a “substantiated findings of abuse and neglect” on ME, just from statements made by my ex husband.

I went all the way to the “Fair Hearing” and proved the caseworker had lied and neglected to do her job. They were COURT ORDERED to remove me from the “Child Abuse Registry.” DFS, and every other government agency says they can’t force CPS to do anything, despite the court order being ignored.

Now in retaliation they have recommended sole physical custody to my ex, and continue to harass me. I haven’t broken the law, or ever abused any of my children, (two are grown, one is younger and living in Texas with her God parents while I fight for my now five year old in Nevada).   They think they are above reproach, no matter what proof I have, or what a Hearing Master Ordered in a court order. They are ruining my life, and have kept my baby and I from spending one minute alone in three years. I’m exhausted, and emotionally spent. Can you offer any advice?

Sincerely,
Victoria Reynolds

The CPS caseworker Nicole Miller avoided needing a Judge to sign off on this and give me what’s known as a “family plan” (a parents chance to jump through hoops for the state, to reconnect with the child) by not having any reason to arrest me. So as I am not a criminal, I have still been given no attorney. Where as a rapist or murderer would be given an attorney by law if they could not afford one, but NOT a single mother working her way through school, neither arrested nor convicted of anything.

Can this REALLY happen?

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