U.S. Signs UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

On May 15, 2007 Dr. Megan Kirshbaum addressed, by invitation, the United Nation's Programme on the Family, Division for Social Policy and Development, Observance of the International Day of Families. Her presentation on parents with disabilities was associated with the December 2006 United Nations General Assembly adoption of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which addresses the rights of families where a parent or child has disabilities.[i] Featured prominently in the Convention is Article 23: Respect for Home and the Family;

  1. States Parties shall take effective and appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against persons with disabilities in all matters relating to marriage, family, parenthood and relationships, on an equal basis with others, so as to ensure that:
  2. States Parties shall ensure the rights and responsibilities of persons with disabilities with regard to guardianship, wardship, trusteeship, adoption of children or similar institutions, where these concepts exist in national legislation; in all cases the best interests of the child shall be paramount. States Parties shall render appropriate assistance to persons with disabilities in the performance of their child rearing responsibilities.
  3. States Parties shall ensure that a child shall not be separated from his or her parents against their will, except when competent authorities subject to judicial review determine, in accordance with applicable law and procedures that such separation is necessary for the best interests of the child. In no case shall a child be separated from parents on the basis of disability of either the child or one or both of the parents.[ii]

On July 24, 2009, President Obama signed the finalized version of this United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and sent it to the U.S. Senate for ratification. On July 30, 2009, the Convention was signed by U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice.

We laud the commitment this development in international law represents for our community and the import of international recognition that parental disability is never a valid stand-alone basis for the removal of a child from her natural family by state actors.


[ii] Id. at 14, 15.