Who we are

The Children and Families with Disabilities Committee of the Rhode Island Coalition for Children and Families (RICCF) is dedicated to enhancing and improving the lives of both children and caregivers who have disabilities, and their families.  We plan to do this by providing responsible and accurate data and information, forums, advocacy, and enhancing and improving access to services for this population.


Article 23 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities states that:

“Parties shall take effective and appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against persons with disabilities in all matters relating to marriage, family, parenthood and relationships, on an equal basis with others.” 

(Llewellyn G., CW360 p. 25) 

In the late 1970’s our nation moved away from institutional environments for individuals with intellectual and other disabilities to more natural, community-based living arrangements, resulting in more adults with cognitive and other disabilities experiencing personal relationships and parenthood. The numbers of individuals with disabilities who are or will be parenting will undoubtedly increase related to social integration, civil rights, and adaptive technologies. Related to this increase is the issue of veterans returning home with physical disabilities, and Traumatic Brain Injury.

The report, Rocking the Cradle: Ensuring the Rights of Parents with Disabilities and Their Children, identifies a disproportionality of parents with a disability involved in child welfare cases moving towards Termination of Parental Rights (TPR). One study found that parents with a disability label from school records were more than three times more likely to experience a TPR than parents without such a disability label.  Parents with such a disability label from school records were also more than twice as likely to have child welfare involvement. According to this document, child removal rates for parents with intellectual disabilities were 40 percent to 80 percent. 


Overrepresentation of such families was also identified in a 1991 study of 200 juvenile court cases which found that despite compliance with court orders, parents with intellectual disabilities had their children removed more often than parents with no identified disability. (National Council on Disability, 2012, pp.71-106) The Child Welfare 360 journal did a feature issue in the Fall, 2013 entitled, The Intersection of Child Welfare and Disability: Focus on Parents. One article identifies 20% of the population in one child welfare office had a parent with an intellectual disability (Barbee, A. P., CW360, Fall, 2013).  These individuals often have a history themselves of maltreatment, and we know that parents with cognitive or other disabilities are often challenged with extenuating life issues such as inadequate employment, poor housing, stigma, victimization, and lack of social support, which compound parenting challenges.



The Children and Families with Disabilities Committee of the Rhode Island Coalition for Children and Families (RICCF) has been researching and reviewing data within the Rhode Island system pertaining to parents with cognitive challenges. The results so far suggest that there is little to no data pertaining to this group of parents within the child and family serving state departments of Rhode Island. The Committee feels that this group of parents is in actuality substantial in size with multiple unmet needs.  In response, the Committee developed two short surveys; one for RI Early Intervention providers, and another for the full membership of the Rhode Island Coalition for Children and Families, to try and capture, through an informal scan, some information related to parents with cognitive challenges. 

Rhode Island Survey Results

Early Intervention System:  Survey completed. Results being analyzed.

Rhode Island Coalition for Children and Families:  In process.

National Statistics

2017 Disabilities Statistics Annual Report, Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Disability Statistics and Demographics, Institute on Disability/UCED, University of New Hampshire, https://disabilitycompendium.org/


American Psychological Association. May 2003. Vol 34, No.5 Resources for parents with disabilities. Parents with Disabilities Online (http://www.disabledparents.net), Disability Resources on the Internet (http://www.disabilityresources.org/

Connecticut Parents with Cognitive Limitations, www.ct.gov/DCF/PWCL/Parents-with-Cognitive-Limitations   

RI Department of Behavioral Health, Developmental Disabilities, and Hospitals (RIBHDDH) https://www.bhddh.ri.gov/developmentaldisabilities/links.php

Paul V. Sherlock Center on Disabilities, www.ric.edu/sherlockcenter/

SpurwinkRI, www.spurwinkri.org

The ARC. Parents with Intellectual Disability, https://www.thearc.org/what-we-do/resources/fact-sheets/parents-with-idd

Through The Looking Glass, https://www.throughthelookingglass.org


Journal of Applied Research in Intellectual Disabilities (2008). Parents Labelled with Intellectual Disability: Position of the IASSID SIRG on Parents and Parenting with Intellectual Disabilities, 21, 296-307.

National Council on Disability (2012). Rocking the cradle: Ensuring the rights of parents with disabilities and their children. Retrieved from http://www.ncd.gov/publications/2012/Sep272012/