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Pennsylvania parents learn of historic child custody award

Pennsylvania residents may be interested to learn that history was made in the case of a child custody battle between a woman and the child welfare agency of the state where she lives. The two-year child custody battle is considered historic because the mother has a slight mental disability yet was ultimately given full custody of her daughter. The mother and her parents took their complaint of illegal discrimination to the federal level.

When the baby was only two days old, the state took her, citing the mother's disability as the reason they determined she was not able to care for the baby. State records claim a missed night feeding, improperly burping after feeding and awkwardness in changing the baby's diaper while the two were still in the hospital as reasons for the removal. The mother and her parents have only been allowed supervised visits in one-hour increments since the baby was placed in foster care.

The mother lives with her parents, who are both retired and who expressed their willingness to the state to help raise the baby. The request was denied by the state, so the case was taken to a federal court, where it was ordered by both the Justice Department and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that the state return the child to her mother or they would be confronted with a lawsuit. The order also mandated a change of state child welfare policy as well as instructions to compensate the mother and her parents. The mother is now working to obtain her high school diploma and has completed CPR training provided by the state.

This child custody case could have an impact on those in Pennsylvania and across the nation who have had children taken from them by their state of residence because of a mental disability. Currently, the national number of parents in this category reaches in the millions with removal rates being anywhere from 40 to 80 percent. Because the laws are constantly changing, people who are facing similar situations should have their case assessed on a continuing basis.

Source: today.com, "Disabled mom gets daughter back after legal battle", Susan Donaldson James, Mar. 12, 2015

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