Exploring the Rights of Disabled Parents 

BY JAY MATHEWS: For Complete Post, Click Here…

ngd-This is an article from 3 decades ago about 2 people well-known in the Michigan disability community, and their fight to get support for themselves to raise their daughter, now an adult. I was at the hearing mentioned along with 100 or so other people. A milestone in Michigan’s path to disability justice. The issue was finally resolved…

The quiet effort to take the child away from Leigh Campbell-Earl and Bill Earl began, as such cases often do, with an anonymous telephone call to county social services workers: There is a woman in East Lansing, Mich., about to have a baby, the caller said, and she is far too disabled to care for it. Her husband uses a wheelchair, too. Shouldn’t the county investigate?

No one knows how many people with severe disabilities are becoming parents. The independent living movement that has led thousands of Americans with disabilities to take jobs and move into their own apartments has had an incalculable romantic side effect.

Men and women who used to be kept at home are falling in love and having children in circumstances that the medical community and legal system are almost completely unprepared for..

Campbell-Earl and Earl find themselves at the center of a complex battle over the rights and responsibilities of disabled parents. Can, for example, people who are so disabled that they need round-the-clock care meet the demands of raising children? Should the government provide support services to help disabled parents care for their children? Or, as some argue, would these children be better off if they were placed in foster homes or adopted by parents who could bring them up without government assistance?

The Michigan husband and wife, both 29, have cerebral palsy, a condition of impaired muscle power and coordination with many causes and symptoms, often arising from brain damage at or before birth.

Their daughter, Natalie, was born May 5 with no apparent disabilities. They have kept the child at home with the help of the United Cerebral Palsy Assn. and several friends, including a young woman who has a mild case of cerebral palsy.

The problem for the Michigan couple is that they cannot pay for a professional caretaker to tend the baby, a solution that many affluent parents with disabilities have relied on to keep their children.

Campbell-Earl and Earl have asked the department of social services in Ingham County, Mich., for assistance but have been told that there is no help available for non-disabled children. County social workers have also made it clear that they will put Natalie in foster care if there is no one capable of caring for the child in the apartment.

On Aug. 7 Campbell-Earl testified and submitted a statement from her husband during a public hearing at the Michigan State Capitol on discrimination against disabled parents. Little that has happened to them so far, or to other parents with disabilities who have fought efforts to remove their children, gives much encouragement to similar couples considering parenthood.

“It is stable, for a while,” said Bill Earl, whose grasp of the issues is masked by his extremely slow, somewhat distorted speech. “We just don’t know how long it is going to last.”

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