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Collaborative Launches Initiative to Protect Rights of Parents with Mental Illnesses
Date:7/8/2008

ven describe the trauma of having to have supervised visitation with my daughter, whom I had adopted from another country because I wanted this child so badly." The girl, taken from a loving family and thrust into a group home, was also traumatized. "She didn't smile for over a year," Null recalled.

Null discovered that Arizona is among the states that list a parent's mental illness as grounds for not providing reasonable efforts to reunify a family. The relevant portion of Arizona state law (8-846) notes that "reunification services are not required" if the parent or guardian has "a mental illness or mental deficiency of such magnitude that . . . . the parent or guardian is unlikely to be capable of adequately caring for the child within twelve months after the date of the child's removal from the home."

The UPenn Collaborative is publicizing Null's story to educate legislators and the public about the impact of the stigma and discrimination associated with mental illnesses. The Collaborative's goals include changing or deleting language that discriminates against parents with mental illnesses in legislation and policies that determine when reasonable efforts to preserve or reunify the family are not required. "Such policies and legislation should use language that does not single out parents with mental illnesses," said UPenn Collaborative director Dr. Mark Salzer. "We also seek relief for these parents under the Americans with Disabilities Act." Dr. Salzer made it clear that under no circumstances is the Collaborative advocating that children be reunified with parents, with or without mental illnesses, who may pose a danger to them.

The Collaborative notes that there has been progress. For example, the Kansas statute, which previously included discriminatory language, was recently rewritten to include language stating that "[n]othing in this code shall be construed to permit discrimination on the basis of disability. . . ."

The Collabo
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SOURCE UPenn Collaborative on Community Integration
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