Barriers and Facilitators to Compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act by the Child Welfare System: Insights from Interviews with Disabled Parents, Child Welfare Workers, and Attorneys
61 Pages Posted: 8 Sep 2020 Last revised: 31 Oct 2021
Date Written: February 10, 2021
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was passed thirty years ago with the promise of “equality of opportunity” for people with disabilities. Notwithstanding, a nascent body of scholarship indicates that parents with disabilities experience substantial and pervasive inequities within the child welfare system, and that the ADA is often disregarded or misapplied by child welfare agencies and courts. Yet, despite extensive legal and social science scholarship about child welfare system involvement among parents with disabilities, no studies have empirically examined why the ADA is not effectively safeguarding the rights of parents with disabilities.
This Article responds to that scholarly void and offers novel and critically needed data on the barriers and facilitators to compliance with the ADA by the child welfare system. This Study draws qualitative data from forty-five in-depth interviews with parents with disabilities, child welfare workers, and parents’ attorneys. Three themes emerged from the data indicating barriers and facilitators that affect compliance with the ADA by the child welfare system. First, knowledge, training, and information about the ADA by parents with disabilities, child welfare workers, and legal professionals impede or enable ADA compliance. Second, institutional support—especially well-defined agency policies and procedures about the ADA, agency culture and leadership, and resource availability—impact compliance with the ADA. Third, factors related to the legal and social context in which cases involving disabled parents occur—particularly tensions between children’s rights and parents’ rights and issues relating to the intersection between disability and child welfare law—are barriers or facilitators to ADA compliance. This Article concludes by identifying critical areas for further research and discussing the policy and practice implications of the findings.
Keywords: disability law, child welfare, family law, qualitative
JEL Classification: K36, K10, K49
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation