By Shaun Boyd
DENVER (CBS4) – A state lawmaker says parents with disabilities are losing their kids because of discrimination.
Rep. Jessie Danielson (D-Wheat Ridge) says while we have laws protecting people with disabilities from discrimination when it comes to employment, housing, education and public services, but nothing to protect their rights as parents.
“What we’re seeing here in Colorado are families being torn apart because a person’s disability is being used against them in custody cases or when they’re seeking an adoption or when they’re seeking foster care,” Danielson said.
Chrissy Henderson is among those who testified in favor of the bill.
“I am a loving, capable parent and to lose shared custody because I can’t drive was beyond absurd,” she said.
Henderson is legally blind and a mom. She didn’t think the two were mutually exclusive, but she says her ex-husband used her disability against her in a child custody battle.
“Through all of this, I was shocked. I had nowhere to turn. No laws were in place to protect me,” she said.
Danielson has introduced a bill that would forbid courts, social services and others from making decisions about a person’s parenting skills based solely on their disability.
Parent after parent gave heartbreaking examples to the House Public Health Care and Human Services Committee.
Carrie Anne Lucas says she became an attorney to represent parents with disabilities after she was discriminated against. She wanted to adopt her niece who had been placed in foster care.
“The social worker would not even consider me to be her parent because of my disability,” Lucas said.
Chris Parsons says a nurse sent a social worker to her hospital room after she gave birth because she was blind.
“This bill is so important to me because I don’t want to be afraid,” Parsons said.
Danielson says she’s not trying to protect bad parents, rather good parents who happen to be disabled.
“We are talking about a person’s disability alone being used against them, not their behavior,” she said.
Some social workers are concerned the bill goes too far and one lawmaker suggested better training for social workers, in how to accommodate parents with disabilities, may be a better approach.
The committee postponed a vote to work on amendments to the bill.