Cited Article

The ADA and Persons with Mental Disabilities: Can Sanist Attitudes Be Undone?

Case Citation

In re Eden F., 741 A.2d 873 (Conn. 1999)

Background

Holding that an "order reversing termination of parental rights was improper; proof of reasonable efforts to reunify mother with children was not required under applicable statute, mother was not rehabilitated, and termination was in children's best interests.”

Citing Quote

Ann F. points to certain evidence adduced during the trial tending to establish that, over the years, she has made progress in coping with both her illness and her children. n33 Indeed, the evidence does suggest that Ann F. has achieved a level of stability within her limitations. This fact, coupled with Ann F.'s sincere love for her daughters, evokes genuine sympathy for Ann F. and for her efforts at rehabilitation. n34 Nevertheless, in light of all the evidence, including the uncontroverted opinions of Spudic, Mantell and Sadler, we cannot say that the trial court was clearly erroneous in concluding, by clear and convincing evidence, that Ann F. had failed to reach such a degree of rehabilitation as would encourage the belief that, within a reasonable period of time, she could assume a responsible position in the lives of her children. n35 n35 At trial, Ann F. claimed that there exists a "strong bias against parents [with] mental illness," and that Ann F. herself had been "battling" such bias in connection with this case. Ann F., however, makes no such claim on appeal. Of course, any such bias would be intolerable, and vigilance must be exercised to ensure that the parental rights of mentally ill persons are afforded the full protections provided under our stringent statutory scheme. See generally, e.g., R. Sackett, "Terminating Parental Rights of the Handicapped," 25 Fam. L.Q. 253 (1991); P. Bernstein, "Termination of Parental Rights on the Basis of Mental Disability: A Problem in Policy and Interpretation," 22 Pac. L.J. 1155 (1991); see also M. Perlin, "The ADA and Persons with Mental Disabilities: Can Sanist Attitudes Be Undone?," 8 J.L. & Health 15 (1994). This is a tragic and difficult case that will have a long-standing, future effect upon parents with mental disabilities. The courts may have "[little] experience in the area of terminating parental rights of handicapped parents." R. Sackett, "Terminating Parental Rights of the Handicapped," 25 Fam. L.Q. 253, 253 (1991). "Handicapped persons do not generally comply with society's stereotype of a parent. The handicapped parent's parenting skill may therefore be assessed under standards that result in him or her being considered an inadequate parent because he or she is handicapped." Id., 272. Adding to this difficulty is the fact that Ann F. suffers from a mental illness. "Surveys show that mental disabilities are the most negatively perceived of all disabilities." M. Perlin, "The ADA and Persons with Mental Disabilities: Can Sanist Attitudes Be Undone?" 8 J.L. & Health 15, 26 (1994).

Article Publication Date

1993

Volume

8

Issue

1