In Re Elijah C.

State: Connecticut

Filed: 2016

Court: Connecticut Supreme Court

Overview: The brief supported a mother with intellectual disability and schizophrenia whose parental rights were terminated by the state’s child welfare agency, despite the agency failing to provide necessary accommodations to the mother throughout the process. The brief argued that termination of parental rights and neglect proceedings are “programs, services, and activities” that must comply with Title II of the ADA.

Excerpt: “Parents with intellectual and psychiatric disabilities face profound challenges when their government accuses them of unfitness. Though nine decades have passed since Justice Holmes upheld the forced sterilization of “mental defectives”…we are not so far removed from Holmes’ bias: Ten states still permit the involuntary sterilization of persons with disabilities; some in language that echoes Holmes’ disdain for its subjects. In Connecticut, parents with intellectual and psychiatric disabilities confront more than just a legacy of discrimination: They also contend with a know-it-when-you-see-it reunification standard and case law that forbids consideration of the ADA. Holding that compliance with the ADA is mandatory in termination and neglect proceedings will remove these two barriers to fair and accurate assessment of the parental fitness of persons with intellectual and psychiatric disabilities.”

Status: In 2017, the Court held that the mother was unable to benefit from reunification efforts. The Court further held that “it is the law of this state that child welfare proceedings are subject to the provisions of the ADA insofar as they involve the services, programs, or activities of any stage agency…the department’s failure to make reasonable modifications to its services, programs or activities to accommodate a parent’s disability would likely preclude a finding…that the department’s reunification efforts were reasonable under the circumstances…We therefore continue to encourage trial courts to look to the ADA for guidance in fashioning appropriate services for parents with disabilities.”

Case Documents

Amicus Brief: In Re Elijah C.

Connecticut Supreme Court Opinion