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9/8/2021 Governor McKee signs legislation to protect families with parents who have disabilities
STATE HOUSE – Governor Dan McKee, joined by Senator Louis P. DiPalma and Representative Terri Cortvriend, today held a ceremonial signing for legislation that precludes the disability of a parent from serving as a basis for denial or restriction in matters involving a child's welfare, foster care, family law, guardianship and adoption.

The legislation (2021-S 0056, 2021-H 5394) protects the best interests of children who have parents with disabilities by establishing procedural safeguards that require adherence to the Americans with Disabilities Act. This includes education of hospital, child protective services and judicial staff in the equal protection rights of parents with disabilities in the context of child welfare, foster care, family law, and adoption.

“Individuals with disabilities continue to face unfair, preconceived, and unnecessary societal biases, as well as antiquated attitudes regarding their ability to successfully parent their own children. This leads to new parents with disabilities being unnecessarily referred to social workers and governmental staff for evaluations of their parenting abilities to provide proper care and environments for their children, based solely upon erroneous assumptions about the parent’s disability. This is unfair, unjust, and may also have serious effects on children who may be denied the opportunity to live in a loving home with parents or caretakers who also have disabilities. Our society is strongest with strong family environments so we should not eliminate loving homes for our kids simply because a parent has a disability,” said Sen. DiPalma (D-Dist. 12, Middletown, Little Compton, Newport, Tiverton).

“Our world is a better place when we recognize that loving, supportive families come in many, many varieties. Lots of children grow up with one or even both of their parents disabled, and their families are worthy and valuable,” said Rep. Cortvriend (D-Dist. 72, Portsmouth, Middletown). “This legislation will prevent children from being denied loving homes due to the false, discriminatory and very outdated assumption that their parents are inadequate guardians due to their disabilities.”

“A person's disability does not, and should not, get in the way of providing a loving home,” said Governor McKee. “This legislation protects parents who want to be there for their children. It protects children who want to remain with their parents. And it protects families – most particularly the numerous Rhode Island families with one or two parents who have a disability. I thank the bill sponsors and advocates who championed this legislation for their work in getting it across the finish line.”

From the right: Rep. Marvin L. Abney, Sen. Louis P. DiPalma, Governor Dan McKee, Christopher Bove, Rep. Deborah Ruggiero and supporters of the legislation at the bill signing held at Middletown Town Hall.

For more information, contact:
Andrew Caruolo, Publicist
State House Room 20
Providence, RI 02903