The Legal Program of the National Center for Parents with Disabilities (a project of Through the Looking Glass) has over 1,900 contacts a year with parents, advocates, social workers and others participating in cases involving parents with disabilities. In these cases, the parent's custody is being challenged by the state or an able bodied partner, in part or in whole, on the basis of their disability.
Ella Callow, J.D., directs the Legal Program. She assists parents, advocates and professionals in the legal and social service systems when they are involved in custody litigation involving the child of a parent with a disability. This can be in the context of dependency, family or adoption cases.
The Legal Program was launched in 2006, a result of overwhelming requests for help from this population of parents aimed at TLG, which has served families where there is disability in the parent or child for thirty years. TLG is a child-centric organization motived by the belief that an unnecessary removal of a child from a safe and loving home, on the basis of a parent's disability, is an inexcusable traumatization of children and a violation of the civil rights of parents with disabilities. We believe that all parties should be motivated by compassion for children to avoid this outcome whenever possible. Unfortunately, what we have found specifically is that for some disability populations, child custody loss rates are as high as 60-80% and there is a significant lack of expertise within existing social service and court systems that undermines meaningful adjudication in these cases. TLG has trained on the issue of parents with disabilities and their families in all 50 states and 45 nations worldwide.
The Legal Program is the only organization in the country dedicating research resources to the impact of this dynamic on American Indian and Alaskan Native communities in the U.S. These communities have almost triple the rate of disability in the general population and continue to struggle to retain their children after a history of stunningly discriminatory and oppressive government removal policies.
Legal Program in the Press:
Connecticut Department of Children & Families Conference on Serving Families with Parents Who Have Cognitive Disabilities (Video of keynote address on October 1, 2013 by Ella Callow. Starts approx. 17:30 into this video)
NPR's Talk of the Nation: Parents With Disabilities And Family Law with TLG's Ella Callow (November 27, 2012)
Disabled Parents Fight For Respect: Associated Press Video Report(November 28, 2012)
BBC Newshour: December 2, 2012, segment on parents with disabilities. (Note, that the BBC segment starts about 26 ½ minutes into this program).
Tragic story in Florida of a teen who died after her disabled mom loses custody: ABC News (December 5, 2012)
Bay Area Native Circle, a KPFA American Indian news and culture show (December 7, 2011)
“Senate Bill would Protect the Rights of Disabled Parents.” (August 18, 2010). LA Daily News.
“Paraplegic Mother Fighting to Keep her Son,” (January 14, 2010). Chicago Tribune.
WomensRadio Interview (August 1, 2009).
“When Your Kids are Taken,” (appeared March 2008). New Mobility Magazine.
“Parent doesn’t understand why she’s not allowed to raise newborn,” (appeared October 14, 2007). San Antonio Express.
“Determined to Parent,” Billings Gazette.