It is our core belief that members of families headed by parents with disabilities have a basic human right to remain intact, to endure despite prejudice or attitudinal bias. This sentiment is expressed most fully in The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). Article 23 of the CRPD mandates that persons with disabilities have the right to bear and raise their children. It forbids the removal of children from their parents based solely on the disability of the parent or child and requires States to provide support to these parents to care for their children. The CRPD became binding international law in May 2008, and while the United States Congress has not ratified the CRPD, the United States became a signatory in July of 2010, evidencing a significant investment in the international vision and ideals of the CRPD.
The central mission of the Legal Program is to implement this core belief and promote the vision and ideals embodied in the CRPD by (1) increasing the understanding and implementation of federal and state disability and civil rights laws in cases where parents have disabilities and are being challenged for custody of their children by the State or another citizen based in whole or part on the parent’ s disability, and (2) ensure whenever possible that meaningful evidence is generated so that a trier of fact can reach a just conclusion as to the fitness of a parent or the best interest of their child and not dissolve these families based on mere speculation or inadequate knowledge regarding this population of families.
In support of this work, the Legal Program works to strengthen civil society informs by providing consultation and technical assistance to groups creating innovative legislative and policy development, providing training to grassroots organizations, federal, state and tribal government institutions; conducting qualitative and quantitative social research on this population of families; developing literature; and contributing to the academic dialogue and scholarship within the field.