Susan and Jane
Susan is upset at losing guardianship of her young daughter but believes it’s in her child’s best interests. She and the child’s father both have intellectual disabilities and Susan also has a condition that affects her mobility and strength. After the intervention of Victoria’s Department of Human Services, guardianship of Susan’s daughter was eventually given to Susan’s mother-in-law, Jane. Jane says it’s not easy taking care of a toddler but believes it’s the best outcome. Susan sees her daughter for two hours per week.
Robert Strike and Julie Loblinzk have mild intellectual disabilities and raised three children including Brad, 20, and Cassandra, 18. When Robert and Julie first started a family, some of their friends told them they shouldn’t have children as it would be 'like a child raising a child." But Brad and Cassandra say they had a good, 'ordinary" upbringing. Robert and Julie say they used to worry that child protection would remove their kids but this never eventuated.
Robyn Miller is a caseworker with the Victorian Department of Human Services. She assesses and investigates some of the department’s most complex cases of child protection and helps decide what’s in the child’s best interests. Robyn says there are lots of reasons why parents with intellectual disabilities become involved with her department, beyond the actual disability itself. The parent might also have a mental health problem or have a partner who is violent.
Maree Walk is the chief executive of Community Services in NSW. She says the sole focus of her department is on whether the child is getting the care they need. She says intellectual disability is not, of itself, seen as a risk factor in child protection assessments. Maree says Community Services sometimes receives phone calls from members of the general public who have made judgements about children whose parents have an intellectual disability.
Professor Gwynnyth Llewellyn says parents with intellectual disabilities are over-represented in child protection cases. She believes parents with intellectual disability are judged far more harshly than other parents. Gwynnyth is the Director of the Centre for Disability Research and Policy at the University of Sydney.
Margaret Spencer helps parents going through child protection cases. She says parents with intellectual disability end up being discriminated against because they don’t have the support services they need to adequately look after their kids. Margaret works at the Intellectual Disability Rights Service. She also has two adult foster daughters with intellectual disabilities who have children of their own.