A Massachusetts woman, identified by the pseudonym Sara Gordon, has a “mild intellectual disability” that sometimes makes it difficult for her to follow directions.
During the first two days after giving birth to Dana in November 2012, Gordon, then 19, had difficulty changing her newborn child’s diapers and had to be reminded to clean spit out of Dana’s mouth, as described by the Guardian.
The Massachusetts Department of Children and Families responded by removing Dana from her, while Gordon was still in the hospital, and placing the child in foster care.
Two and a half years later, Gordon is still fighting to regain her parental rights.
In a recent report, the Department of Justice and the Department of Health and Human Services rebuked the MDFC for its handling of the case, finding that the agency’s actions were based on stereotypical assumptions of people with disabilities and violated the Americans with Disabilities Act. In addition, the agencies found that the MDFC had provided “minimal supports and opportunities to reunify with Dana.”
“DCF staff assumed that Ms Gordon was unable to learn how to safely care for her daughter because of her disability, and, therefore, denied her the opportunity to receive meaningful assistance,” the agencies stated in the report, according to the Guardian.
The report represents the first time that the federal government has recognized the ADA as applying to parenting rights.
In October 2012, the National Council on Disability, an independent federal agency released an extensive report, finding widespread discrimination against parents with disabilities in custody proceedings.
“Parents with disabilities are suffering significant discrimination,” NCD attorney Robyn Powell told the Guardian. “What happened to this mother is very common… states are removing these children for the sole reason of their parents having a disability.”