Parenting with a Psychiatric Disability: Parental Rights, Legal Barriers, Strategies and Solutions

Kate Nemens, J.D.

Parents with mental health challenges and/or psychiatric disabilities are at high risk of losing custody of, or contact with, their children as a result of child welfare and court intervention. Stigma, fear and outright discrimination are real obstacles which must be confronted with facts, advocacy and support.

Learning objectives:

  1. Legal barriers in the courts: legal standards defined and applied in both family court and child welfare; when courts can make custody and parenting decisions based on a mental health diagnosis.
  2. Strategies to overcome these barriers: Use of the ADA; advocacy for parenting services andresources to support their family; educating judges and attorneys on recovery and alternatives to the medical model, to look beyond diagnosis, and to consider holistic, individualized and creative solutions for parents with mental health challenges; training advocates to look for real-life solutions, and help clients redefine “success.”
  3. Supports and resources for parents with mental health challenges: accommodations under the ADA; Recovery Learning Centers, Clubhouses, and other Peer Supports.