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Parents with Disabilities

Why This Is Important

Rather than assuming incompetence or waiting for problems to occur for people with developmental disabilities in raising their children, person-centered supports for parents who have developmental disabilities need to be proactive. The service systems responsible to support persons with developmental disabilities are beginning to recognize that choosing marriage and/or parenthood is a choice many adults in this society make, and that parenthood is a valued social role. Nonetheless, it is also recognized that children have the right to grow in a safe and nurturing environment. Self-determination, empowerment, personal relationships, collaboration, access to supports and the value of families are important principles of person-centered supports for parents who have developmental disabilities. It has been the case that these principles have not been considered when people with developmental disabilities choose to become parents. Few support services exist for these parents, and many of those that do exist are designed to only respond to parents with developmental disabilities who are having difficulties. People with developmental disabilities need access to family life and parent education before starting a family. Parents with developmental disabilities also need access to parent education and supports which recognizes their rights as parents, builds on parent and family strengths, recognizes the importance of family ties, and provides family-centered, parent empowering services in a proactive manner. Providing supports to parents with developmental disabilities requires not only plan to offer support to parents at a local level, but thought about ways to address the myriad of challenges and barriers to these non-traditional parents. These result from community attitudes regarding what makes a person competent to be a parent, and system barriers that often add to the challenges inherent to being a parent with developmental disabilities. The products in this department emphasize the principles of family-centered and parent-empowering support services for persons with developmental disabilities who are also parents. Many of the products provide useful ideas for starting a parent-support program.

This web site is maintained by the Research and Training Center on Community Living with support from the National Association of State Directors of Developmental Disabilities Services, the Human Services Research Institute and the Administration on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities. E-mail weste050@umn.edu.
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