After a two and a half year legal battle, Sara Gordon has reunited with her child Dana, who was taken from her two days after giving birth.
Her story was the focus of a highly publicized federal investigation released in January, which found that the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families had violated the Americans with Disabilities Act by discriminating against Gordon in its handling of the case.
The case marks the first time the federal government has recognized the ADA as applying to child custody decisions.
“Parents have a fundamental interest in the care, custody, and management of their children and a state cannot lightly interfere with this interest,” Eve Hill, deputy assistant attorney of the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, told the Daily Beast. “Parents with disabilities have no less of an interest in the care of their children and stereotypes and assumptions about their ability to parent cannot provide a basis for removing their children.”
Sara Gordon, as she is identified in court papers to protect her privacy, has a mild intellectual disability. Two days after giving birth to Dana, while Gordon was still in the hospital, the MDFC placed Dana in foster care. Although Gordon regularly visited Dana and planned to raise her with the assistance of her parents, Kim and Sam, the MDFC commenced proceedings for the foster family to adopt Dana seven months later.
“It’s been very hard,” Kim Gordon told Today. “There’ve been nights when I went to bed crying. We didn’t know if we would win or lose.”
The ARC, which advocated for the Gordons and provided Sara with parenting education, hopes that the ruling will help create a presumption in favor of supporting parents with disabilities.
“This case has good timing because we have so much more research showing that people with intellectual disabilities can be good parents. That shouldn’t play any role in determining a child’s removal from a home,” Leigh Ann Davis, program manager for justice initiatives at The Arc, told the Daily Beast. “Bias has no place in the child welfare system.”