Legal Program

The Legal Program has over 1,500 contacts a year with parents, advocates, social workers and others participating in cases involving parents with disabilities. In these cases, the parent's custody is being challenged by the state or an able bodied partner, in part or in whole, on the basis of their disability.

Ella Callow, J.D., is the Managing Attorney for the Legal Program and Custody Advisor for the National Resource Center for Parents with Disabilities. She assists parents, advocates and professionals in the legal and social service systems when they are involved in custody litigation involving the child of a parent with a disability. This can be in the context of dependency, family or adoption cases.

Additional TLG staff are involved in the legal program, as well. Dr. Megan Kirshbaum provides clinical analysis of cases and expert witness services; Meche Aguirre-Sullivan provides Spanish translation and Information and Referral services; Nikki Brown-Booker facilitates the Parent-to-Parent Network for peer legal support.

We at TLG believe that the unnecessary removal of a child from a safe and loving home, on the basis of a parent's disability, is an inexcusable traumatization of children and a violation of the civil rights of parents with disabilities. We believe that all parties should be motivated by compassion for children to avoid this outcome whenever possible. Unfortunately, what we have found specifically is that for some disability populations, removal rates of children are as high as 60%, and in general, whatever the disability population, unnecessary removal occurs too often. Our services can help.

Services Available Through the Legal Program For Parents with Disabilities

  • Educating parents and their advocates on the legal process and helping them establish what is happening in their own case through discussions with the custody advisor and parent-to-parent network peer mentors.

  • Conducting research for parents, their advocates, and professionals in law and social services, regarding local legal representation, protection and advocacy services, experts, lay witnesses and courthouse centered resources.

  • Producing materials to assist parents and their advocates in litigating custody. This includes the publishing of guides and articles, and the continual updating of our legal precedent, law review article and annotation collections concerning parents with disabilities.

  • Creating trainings to assist systems in litigating custody. These trainings are specifically tailored for various systems, such as Child Protective Services, Early Intervention programs and Independent Living Centers, to help these professionals cope with the unique legal and practical issues that arise when they are participating in litigation involving a parent with a disability.

  • Providing referrals that are in-house and cross disciplinary. Essentially this involves helping parents, advocates and professionals access our unique and groundbreaking Occupational Therapy, Intellectual Disability and Early Intervention programs and research when those may be of use in the course of litigation involving a parent with a disability.
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