The Short of It
In what will likely become a precedent-setting case, a mom with a "mild intellectual disability" regained custody of her 2-year-old daughter this week after a heated two-year legal battle.
In the hospital, the new mom was uncomfortable changing the baby's diaper, missed a feeding after reading the clock incorrectly and didn't burp the baby properly. Massachusetts child welfare officials stepped in, saying she couldn't care for the baby, and sent the newborn to live in foster care.
Sara lives with her parents, Kim and Sam Gordon, and they'd offered to help her with the baby, but the grandparents were told Sara and baby Dana couldn't both live in their home.
"They said I had to choose between my daughter and my granddaughter," Kim Gordon told Today. "That's not right."
The family fought in court for two years, while only getting hour-long supervised visits with the little girl. Finally, the Department of Justice concluded the state acted illegally.
"When we first picked up the baby, she reached right out to my daughter," Kim told Today. "She knows her mom. And now my daughter is learning to be a parent with no one looking over her."
This case could change the future of custody decisions for parents with disabilities. The National Council of Disability estimates that, currently, about 40 to 80 percent of children are removed from the custody of parents who have an intellectual disability.
"We are thrilled with the results, but I wish it had never come to this," council attorney Robyn Powell told Today. "It's heart-wrenching that the family was separated for so long based solely on the presumption that the mother was unfit because she had a disability."
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