Family Law Prof Blog

Editor: Margaret Ryznar
Indiana University
Robert H. McKinney School of Law

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Mental Illness & Parenting

From City Limits:

It's a common misconception, within New York City's child welfare system, says Lauren Shapiro, the executive director of Brooklyn Family Defense Project, where Marcus works. "There's a total lack of understanding of the difference between the two," Shapiro says. "They're really not equipped to deal with mental health issues."

Parents who actually do have mental illness sometimes get mishandled too, Shapiro says, by a system that assumes it's impossible for them to be fit parents simply because they have a diagnosis. "We see insensitivity toward our clients, laughing at behaviors that are a result of mental health issues," Shapiro says. "What we see is that parent's conditions also really deteriorate when they come into the ACS system."

Shapiro's perception is one that is shared by several child welfare advocates and echoed by a winter 2009 Child Welfare Watch report that documented systemic problems with the child welfare system's management of mental health issues. The report found that mental health evaluations "are requested far more often than necessary, even in cases in which there is no mental health allegation."

Read more here.


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Parents who suffer from serious mental illness should not be allowed to parent their children alone because of the obvious safety considerations.

Posted by: Tulsa Divorce Attorneys | Aug 17, 2011 8:39:34 PM

The system is geared towards disfavoring parents who have mental illness. Once the parents end up in the ACS system, they get treated disfavorably and then the stigma causes their condition to slowly's a sad decline.

Posted by: Oklahoma City Divorce Attorneys | Aug 19, 2011 7:51:20 PM

The story you linked to was interesting, and fairly upsetting. I was aware that the irrational stigma associated with mental illness still exists, though it has diminished somewhat in recent years.

I never would have guessed, however, that it's so pervasive in family law. I would assume that everyone involved in social services was required to have at least a basic knowledge of adult and child psychology. Apparently not.

Posted by: JDU | Aug 26, 2011 12:01:36 PM

The stigma still exists - it's an upsetting reality :(

Posted by: Divorce Lawyers Oklahoma City | Sep 20, 2011 7:00:22 PM

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