March 6, 2014
The Honorable Roger Freeman
331 John L. O'Brien Building
P.O. Box 40600
Olympia, WA 98504
Dear Representative Freeman,
I write to express support of HB 2616, An Act Relating to Parents with Intellectual or Developmental Disabilities Involved in Dependency Proceedings. The National Council on Disability (NCD), an independent federal agency in Washington, DC, is comprised of fifteen Presidential appointees and a professional staff that supports the Council’s work. NCD is charged with advising the President, Congress, and other federal agencies regarding laws, policies, practices, and procedures affecting people with disabilities. Your leadership on this aspect of a critically important topic is applauded and we offer ourselves as a resource in the pursuit of similar and additional legislation in future legislative sessions for all populations of people with disabilities.
Ensuring the rights of parents with disabilities is a top legislative priority for NCD. In 2012, NCD released the groundbreaking report, Rocking the Cradle: Ensuring the Rights of Parents with Disabilities and their Children. Rocking the Cradle is a comprehensive policy study, infused with real life stories of parents with disabilities, that examines the discrimination faced by the more than four million parents with disabilities raising their families in the United States and lays out concrete recommendations and model legislation designed to end the pervasive discrimination faced by these families.
Even today, 24 years after the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), parents with disabilities are the only distinct community of Americans who must struggle – solely because of their status – to retain custody of their children. Removal rates for parents who have a psychiatric disability have been found to be as high as 70 to 80 percent; for parents who have an intellectual disability, 40 to 80 percent. In families in which a parent has a physical disability, 13 percent have reported discriminatory treatment in custody cases. Parents who are deaf or blind also experience extremely high rates of child removal and loss of parental rights. As a result, we urge you to take further action alongside and in addition to this important legislation to address discrimination against parents with all disabilities, including but not limited to those with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
In light of the persistent and systemic discrimination faced by parents with disabilities involved in the child welfare system nationwide, HB 2616 is an important step toward ensuring the rights of these families in Washington state. Indeed, NCD urges in its Rocking the Cradle report for states across the nation to take steps to protect the rights of all their residents who are parents with disabilities.
The Washington Legislature is urged to offer its support of these families by swiftly passing HB 2616. If we can be of any further assistance, please do not hesitate to contact us at (202) 272-2004.
 National Council on Disability, Rocking the Cradle: Ensuring the Rights of Parents with Disabilities and their Children, September 2012, available at /publications/2012/Sep272012/.