Monday, May 15, 2017

Healthy Habits: One Couple's Fight for Parents with Disabilities partnered with WNYC’s “Death, Sex & Money” podcast on a new story profiling one couple’s fight to break down legal barriers that threaten parents who have physical disabilities. I thought you might be interested in reading/featuring this piece.

Minnesota-based Nikki Villavicencio – who has arthrogryposis, a condition that immobilizes some of her joints – and her partner Darrell Paulsen – who has cerebral palsy – never thought it would be possible to have children until Nikki became pregnant with their daughter Alley in 2012.

“As a person with a disability and as a woman, I always felt the world didn’t see me as a caretaker,” Nikki says, but rather, “someone who needs to be taken care of.”

From the story:

The idea that women with disabilities shouldn’t reproduce starts early. Many young women with cerebral palsy reported, in a multi-year study by The Cerebral Palsy Foundation, that they didn’t even get basic sex ed in school because it was taught in classes they didn’t participate in, like physical education.

A 2005 study in the Journal of Pediatric and Adolescent Gynecology found that 40 to 50 percent of gynecologists admitted they felt somewhat to completely unprepared to treat adolescents with disabilities.

More than six percent of parents in the U.S. have a disability, but two-thirds of dependency statutes allow courts to decide whether a parent is unfit solely because of a disability. “Even today, 22 years after the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, parents with disabilities are the only distinct community of Americans who must struggle to retain custody of their children,” reads a 2012 report issued by the National Council on Disability to Congress.

To increase protections, Nikki and Darrell proposed legislation, The Parenting With Disabilities bill, to prevent Child Protective Services calls on parents with disabilities by helping parents apply for adaptive parenting equipment, and allowing Personal Care Assistants to assist with minor parenting tasks. It’s the first law of its kind in the U.S.

In February, Nikki and Darrell’s bill passed unanimously through two House committees, and moved on to committees in the Senate. Now, Nikki is planning to run for city council in 2018.

To read more about Nikki and Darrell’s story, and the stories of other parents like them, visit If featuring, please link back to the original piece.

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