Who's Fit to Be a Parent?

By Mukti Jain Campion | Go to book overview

6

Disabled parents

My husband's sister stood up in court and said 'She'll never be fit and able to look after a child'. The judge, in his infinite wisdom, said 'Well, we don't know what quality of life you'll have in a wheelchair so your child is better off with an able bodied parent'. He took away everything I had. I was Fiona's mother. He told me I could no longer be that person.

(Gwen Reid, BBC's From the Edge, October 1992)

Disability and parenthood are words which still seem to come together only uncomfortably in our society. The choice of parenthood is withheld from many disabled people through the disapproval of others, through lack of accurate information and lack of role models. If parenthood is embarked upon it is often made more problematic and stressful because of the lack of understanding from professionals. The media reinforce public prejudice, taking little notice of disabled people as parents except to publicise the stories of children being removed from parents deemed unfit or the plight of young children who are forced into caring for such parents.However, several factors have combined to produce a growing number of parents with disabilities in recent years. Medical advances have enabled many disabled children to survive into adulthood and medical treatment has also enabled many people to conduct fuller adult lives, although certain disabling conditions are on the increase, e.g. AIDS. In Britain, the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act (1970) set in motion the integration of disabled people into the community, underlining their right to live independently. The disability rights movement which developed in the 1960s has resulted in a greater consciousness amongst people with disabilities of their rights to self-determination. So more disabled people are now living in the community and pursuing ordinary lives-yet as parents they remain an invisible group. There are several reasons for this:
• They wish to avoid any attention which focuses on their disability as a negative trait.
• Many of the public places where parents and children are normally seen such as shopping centres, playgroups, school gates and leisure halls are in-accessible to people with disabilities.

-133-

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Who's Fit to Be a Parent?
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Preface vii
  • Acknowledgements ix
  • Introduction 1
  • Part I - Parents on Trial 5
  • 1 - The State Versus Parents 7
  • 2 - Other People's Children 38
  • 3 - Parents Apart 63
  • 4 - Playing God 96
  • 5 - Key Themes from Part I 117
  • Part II - Parents on the Edge 129
  • 6 - Disabled Parents 133
  • 7 - Mentally Handicapped Parents 151
  • 8 - Drug Addicted Mothers 168
  • 9 - Gay Parents 177
  • 10 - Teenage Mothers 189
  • 11 - Older Mothers 197
  • 12 - Single Mothers 205
  • 13 - Lone Fathers 217
  • 14 - Working Mothers 225
  • 15 - Black Parents 239
  • 16 - Key Themes from Part II 261
  • Part III - The Job Description 269
  • 17 - The Ideal Model and the Actual Model of Fit Parenting 271
  • 18 - Implications of the Actual Model of Fit Parenting to Assessment 281
  • 19 - Looking Forward 300
  • Bibliography 303
  • Index 309
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