What could be worse than to have your child taken away by someone who tells you that you, the parent, are not capable or raising her or him?
Just such a forced removal of a child happens at an “alarming rate” to parents with intellectual disabilities in Australia, the country’s ABC News reports. Human rights and disability rights advocates assert that such removals of children into state care are “wrong” and “inhumane” yet continue to occur due to “entrenched prejudice.”
As a parent (and of a son with disabilities), the thought of having my child taken from me on the grounds that I was unable to care for him is deeply disturbing. On the other hand, I know what’s involved in being a parent and how overwhelming it can be to realize that you are solely responsible for the total care, well-being and future of another human being.
Australia Removing Children From Parents With Intellectual Disabilities
Individuals with intellectual disabilities comprise only one percent of the general parenting population in Australia. But in New South Wales — which has the highest removal rate in the country — those with intellectual disabilities make up ten percent of the parents who are fighting in the courts to win back their own children.
The government of course contends that it is simply doing what is best for all parties. Says NSW Family Services Minister Pru Goward to ABC News:
“Every removal is the failure of our community to keep children safe in their own homes; sometimes you are going to have to do it.”
“In other words, some failures are inevitable, but every time we do it, it is of great distress to everybody.”
But surely it is the children and their parents who undergo the greatest distress and who pay, and suffer, when “failures” occur?
Two women with mild intellectual disabilities who were themselves wards of the state specifically told ABC News that they not want their children to go through what they did. They recount experiences revealing how, after having a child, they ended up very much at the mercy of government agencies. A woman identified as Lily says that her baby was taken from her hours after she gave birth by family services. The same agency took the child of another woman, identified as Clara, when she sought help from the agency.
Rights of Parents With Disabilities Are Often Overlooked
In the cases of these women, their own responses to the potential trauma of having a child removed from them by state agencies was not fully considered. Dr. Margaret Spencer from the Intellectual Disability Rights Service and others point out that parents with disabilities too often get the proverbial short end of the stick when children are removed. “I have no question that we have to act in the best interests of the child, but we also have to show compassion to the parents,” Dr. Spencer says, in calling for standardized protocols in removing a child and for providing parents with grief and trauma counseling.
Photo by Daquella Manera
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