New Law Sets Procedural Safeguards Protecting Parents with Disabilities from Discrimination

New Law Sets Procedural Safeguards Protecting Parents with Disabilities from Discrimination

On August 1, 2024, legislation to strengthen legal protections for parents who are blind or have other disabilities and their children will take effect in Minnesota.

The new provisions are a result of the advocacy of the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota, along with the support of many others in the disability community and the Minnesota Legislature. They seek to address a long-standing problem in which prospective parents seeking to adopt, or parents dealing with custody disputes or other similar issues, are much more likely to be judged incapable of taking care of a child because of the general fear and lack of understanding surrounding disability.

"For generations, parents with disabilities have been successfully raising children all over the world," said Corbb O'Connor, President of the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota. "Disability is not a relevant factor in a person's ability to parent, and this law helps make sure that it won't be allowed to drive parenting decisions as has too often happened in the past."

The legislation will prevent the imposition of limitations on custody, parenting time, or adoption of a child on the basis of a parent's disability. Further, a parent's disability cannot be a basis for the filing of a petition for a child in need of protective services. If limitation of parental rights in any of these cases is considered because of specific behaviors or other factors, the use of supportive parenting services, such as learning nonvisual techniques or taking parenting classes, must be considered as a way to resolve concerns before limitations or denials can occur. If the court ultimately does remove a child, deny a prospective parent the ability to adopt, or limit custody or parenting time, the court must provide in writing the reasons for the decision, including why supportive parenting services could not be used to alleviate concerns, to show that there has been no discrimination on the basis of disability. The legislation modifies Minnesota Statutes 259.53, 260C.141, and 518.17.

Visit our blind parents web page for more information and resources for parents who are blind.