The Effects on Foster Children of Using Parental Disability As a Removal Reason
Saturday, November 14, 2015
Riverfront South/Central (Hyatt Regency Miami)
*Names in bold indicate Presenter
There is growing international attention to the high rates of involvement of parents with disabilities in the child welfare system, with studies in Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom finding that parents with various types of disabilities are more likely to be involved in child welfare and/or have their parental rights terminated. In the United States, three quarters of states list parental disability in their statutory grounds for termination of parental rights (TPR). While the National Council on Disability’s (NCD) Rocking the Cradle Report (2012) highlights the problematic nature of focusing on parental disability in child welfare and calls for states to change these policies, there is currently no evidence regarding how parental disability is used as a removal reason in the United States or its effects on foster children’s experiences. This study uses administrative data from the 2012 year of Adoption and Foster Care Reporting System (AFCARS), the federal reporting system that collects case-level data on all children in foster care through state and tribal title IV-E agencies, to examine how parental disability is used as a removal reason and its effects on children. This study finds that 19.5% of children in foster care have parental disability as at least one of the removal reasons, and 5.6% have parental disability as their sole removal reason. States vary substantially on how often they use parental disability as a removal reason, with four states having parental disability as the only removal reason for over 10% of their foster children, while 16 states use it for less than 1% of their cases. Parental disability is 24% more likely to be used as a removal reason in states with parental disability as a statutory grounds for TPR. Parents under 18 or over 50 were more likely to have a removal reason of parental disability. In addition, removals were more likely to be voluntary than involuntary for those with parental disability as a removal reason. The study examined the experiences in foster care of children removed from the home because of parental disability. Those who had parental disability as one of several removal reasons spent an average of 100 more days in foster care in their current setting and an average of 116 more total days in foster care than those who did not have parental disability as a removal reason. Those foster children who had parental disability as their only reason for removal spent an average of 205 more days in foster care in their current setting and an average of 240 total days in foster care than those who did not have parental disability as their sole removal reason. Foster children with a removal reason of parental disability were 33% more likely to be living in non-relative foster care, 32% less likely to have a case plan goal of family reunification and 50% less likely to be reunified with their parents upon discharge from foster care. This evidence will be discussed in regards to the policy recommendations made by the NDC.